Young entrepreneurs call on Gov't for a seat at the table

Young entrepreneurs call on Gov't for a seat at the table

Senior staff reporter

Friday, September 25, 2020

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THE Young Entrepreneurs Association (YEA) is urging the new Andrew Holness-led Administration to facilitate greater inclusion of players from the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector in decision-making bodies and boards across Government.

The association says this should be part of the Administration's strategy to institutionalise support for MSMEs and a more integrated all-of-Government approach to MSME support.

“More inclusion in decisions will ensure that all factors are considered, providing a win-win position, which improves the probability of success of Government projects and ensures full cross-sectorial benefits realisation,” president of the young professionals' group Cordell Williams Graham said in a Jamaica Observer interview yesterday.

“Institutionalising the support to the MSME sector will help to stimulate productivity and investment among MSMEs, and improve accuracy in GDP [gross domestic product] measurement going forward,” she argued.

The YEA president also proposed that the Government seek to maximise the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the sector to solve national challenges such as crime, which continues to plague the country and sector.

According to Williams Graham, crime continues to deplete entrepreneurs' confidence to venture into or remain in business, with increased operational costs and reduction in productivity in some areas as they are forced to close their doors early for their own protection and that of their staff and clients.

“Improving MSME participation and increasing seats at the various tables for advocates in the sector is important,” she noted.

Williams Graham pointed out that there is urgent need for reform of the telecommunications and energy sectors, to reduce the input costs for businesses.

She pointed to flexible work arrangements and the need to fast-track initiatives to support the roll-out of these arrangements across the private and public sectors.

“This will give more persons the opportunity to pursue additional economic activity and entrepreneurial ventures,” she said.

Williams Graham said, too, that there is scope for increased allocation of funding or resources for physical business hubs, business coaching, training and technical support, and guidance on governance to associations that support MSMEs.

“These associations will be more empowered to feed timely information and support to entrepreneurs, conduct research, and work hand in glove with the Government to administer some of the growth-enabling and supporting initiatives from the Government,” she asserted.

The young entrepreneurs believe incentivising participation in the formal sector is another area the Government should give keen attention.

Williams Graham said this means creating more incentives for informal players to participate in the formal sectors by instituting housing, health and pension benefits for self-employed individuals.

“Housing is particularly important as more home-based businesses are springing up due to COVID-19, as well as housing allows persons to be able to borrow and invest more in growing their business,” she said.

Furthermore, she suggested that there needs to be more capital support to micro-financing institutions to on-lend to MSMEs.

“When we see these things happening, I think this will solidify, in our minds, that this Administration is really serious about growing the country and empowering the MSME sector, which constitutes over 90 per cent of Jamaica's productive capacity, to help in this regard,” she stated.

Willams Graham pointed out that, at the moment, entrepreneurs face serious size-related barriers or limited capacity, which hinders their ability to access technical resources as well as the financing and Government contracts required to grow and scale their businesses.

She also highlighted prohibitive overheads, particularly utilities, and the instability of the Jamaican dollar, which impacts the ability of businesses to maximise on international opportunities.

The association, which focuses on building the capacity and capability of entrepreneurs aged 45 and younger, lamented that it also faces an “unforgiving and inflexible credit framework”.

The YEA president said the limited support for the creative sector or innovation in business defeats the purpose of entrepreneurship altogether and stifles growth.

She is also concerned about the limited support systems or the limited capacity and capability of the associations that are set up to support MSMEs.

Williams Graham said that while entrepreneurs applaud the short-term interventions, such as the COVID-19 relief initiatives, these programmes are not sustainable, neither for the Government nor for MSMEs.

“If we immediately move to provide this institutionalised support, this will help to build confidence in the sector and empower businesses to recover in the short term while building the long-term resilience required to crisis-proof the MSME sector, and by extension the economy for the long term,” she insisted.

“Someone great once said to me, 'Success is one per cent strategy and 99 per cent implementation,' ” the entrepreneur said, in reference to the Government's promises during its second term in relation to the business sector.

“We are not focused on the manifesto, which is a high-level strategy. What we want to see is implementation of impactful initiatives, which we believe can enable MSME players to recover and be empowered to grow and contribute to a stronger economy for the long haul,” she outlined.

Williams Graham said YEA, which is a non-profit organisation established in 2006 under the patronage of the Jamaica Employers Federation, wants to work with the Government to help flesh out its high-level strategies, to create long-lasting and far-reaching impact for the sector.

YEA is a non-profit organisation established in 2006 under the patronage of the Jamaica Employers Federation, and focuses on building the capacity and capability of entrepreneurs aged 45 and younger.

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