Time for action on the MSME policy

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

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WE hope that the Green Paper on the draft Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) and Entrepreneurial Policy, which was tabled in Parliament in May, has not been left to gather cobwebs like other documents now before the legislature.

Even if he does not show it, we know that Minister Anthony Hylton, in whose Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce the document originated, is quite eager to see the policy put in place to revive a sector that could be the game-changer for Jamaica's ailing economy. After all, small businesses form the backbone of thriving economies, creating jobs and acting as a breeding ground for industries.

The draft is quite comprehensive and posits itself as the foundation of a targeted framework to finally foster growth of the MSME sector and entrepreneurship.

The document is the result of a series of meetings that began in 2002 and is seen as a key strategy of the Government to tackle the challenges being faced by the country's MSME sector and rekindle the entrepreneurial spirit which has waned throughout the years.

The draft policy rightfully acknowledges the importance of MSMEs in the creation of industries, growth of the economy, and the impact it will have on the realisation of Vision 2030 — Jamaica's national development plan.

It touches on some key issues that have hindered the growth of the sector over the years, including stifling overheads; rising energy costs; the often Herculean task of accessing venture capital; Government red tape; lack of management, marketing, and other business skills among business owners that are needed to take their companies forward; the lack of awareness on how existing trade arrangements impact business performance; and the role Government plays in assisting MSMEs to tap into global value chains.

It proposes what we believe are reasonable solutions to create an environment that fosters entrepreneurship, provides better access to capital, and institutes necessary capacity-building initiatives for business owners.

Aspiring entrepreneurs would particularly welcome a policy prescription that speaks to the enhancement of business and development support which, in effect, are capacity-building programmes that will no doubt make a difference.

Another prescription that will open up opportunities for young entrepreneurs is the proposed Secured Transaction Act that will recognise collateral outside the traditional land, buildings and other tangible assets — a requirement that has proven to be a major barrier faced by many small business owners as they seek to attract financiers.

But, it is difficult to ignore the fact that many discussions initiated by the Government over the years about policy changes to stimulate growth in the MSME sector have been followed up with very little action.

We believe that this draft policy is comprehensive — hitting all the right notes in highlighting the problems and proposing reasonable solutions. However, the benefits will only come when the policy moves from draft to reality.




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