Business

Youth entrepreneur group wants minister of employment

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business Reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 13, 2014    

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THE Youth Entrepreneurs Association (YEA) is calling for the addition of a cabinet member with responsibility for employment.

They reckon that the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce is most suited to be reshaped, to include employment because its policies and activities have the potential to significantly reduce the unemployment rate.

With Jamaica's current unemployment rate close to 17 per cent, and the rate among youth as much as 40 per cent, the YEA considers this rate to be chronic. Consequently, the group has put together suggestions it believes could lead to a systematic reduction in the unemployment rate.

Another proposal is that the Government establish a special $1-billion micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) fund to improve access to financing, a challenge being faced by MSMEs.

To form the billion-dollar fund, $50 million could be taken from the forfeiture of criminal assets through the proceeds of crimes act; $300 million from the National Insurance Fund; $250 million from the Tourism Enhancement Fund, $100 million from grant funding institutions, and $300 million from funds which are currently available to the sector through the Development Bank of Jamaica.

"Our core mission is to advocate for policy initiative geared towards businesses, and help create an enabling environment for the MSMEs, said Erica Wynter, president of YEA. She added that the YEA's proposed policy positions were presented to Industry Minister Anthony Hylton at a YEA Public Forum.

One central entity would put a focused approach on employment as well as enhance operational efficiency and cohesiveness, and lead to faster and greater levels of success, said Andrae Blair, while making it clear that the YEA is in no way implying that nothing is currently being done to improve employment.

A billion-dollar fund may sound presumptuous, but the YEA says they are merely suggestions for areas where funds can be taken from.

"We didn't want to just ask for money without suggesting where the funds could come from," said Blair, who is the chair of public policy and advocacy committe for YEA.

To provide financing to the sector, funds could be directly lent by the Micro Investment Development Agency and

the Self Start Fund at concessionary rates of interest of two to five per cent, according to the association. YEA also figures that the funds can also be unlent to them as well as other groups in the sector that can provide support to entrepreneurs.

Financing is available in most instances, but the reasons businesses don't get loans is because they aren't loan ready as a result of lack of business plans and proper marketing, according

to Wynter.

Wynter was recently named president of the association and hopes to increase the membership base, which currently stands at 60 members, and launch a YEA chapter in Mandeville by July. She also plans to

host entrepreneurship clinics during the summer in Portland, St Ann, St Catherine and Westmoreland.

"That's just one aspect of what we want to do this year, it would take more than an article," she said.

Nonetheless, the YEA shared their policy position with the Sunday Finance, which outlined some of the areas that it would focus its advocacy efforts. These include, a thrust towards identifying new markets, such as countries in Latin America and Africa for MSMEs to sell their goods and services; an increased focus on the creation of new industries to complement Jamaica's existing traditional industries.

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