SMEs complain that it's 'not easy to do business in Jamaica'

BY KELLARAY MILES
Observer staff reporter

Sunday, July 07, 2019

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The banking sector came under heavy criticism on Wednesday, as the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) fraternity came out in a no-nonsense mode to tackle the issues and get answers to the problems that they encounter to do business. Chief among the concerns, of many, was the issue of obtaining loans from banks.

The venue, Terra Nova Hotel, was filled with passion mixed with searing emotions as key stakeholders converged last Wednesday (July 3) for the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica sponsored — “Time for Growth — Unlocking the Power of the SME” — forum.

In what took the form of a panel discussion, the key stakeholders and members of the SMEs sat down to “talk the things” in an effort to find common ground to facilitate growth and development of the sector.

With Jamaica's having high ranking for its business environment and favourable ratings for starting a business, the sentiments of members of the SME were not reflective of these ratings.

Donovan Wignall, President of Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Alliance, who was a representative on the panel, called out the bankers for not being easy to deal with. He pointed out that the treatment of SMEs was unfair.

This he believes is largely due to the changing nature of the business environment and the type of business models, ideas, and people that are entering the sector. As a result, Wignall stated that strong support will be needed to help these entities to grow. He reasoned that currently, “getting a car loan by the bank is much easier than getting one for SME financing”.

These same sentiments were echoed by several of the small business owners, who voiced their disgust and frustration, as the onerous bank requirements currently act as an infringement to the growth of their businesses.

One SMEs business owner during a follow-up question and answer session urged bankers to “take a little more risk on their own money”. The money being referred to was the annual profits reported to have been made by banks.

Another business operator lashed out ferociously at the banks and urged them to be more proactive and begin “to take more risk like they have been doing in their own businesses”.

In their defence, David Noel, president of Jamaica Bankers Association agreed that there is a “long list of things to change and every effort will be made to address the concerns of which they have taken note”.

Chorvelle Johnson, chief executive officer of Sagicor Bank, also acknowledged that “things are not perfect”, but urged that “every step will be made to remedy the challenges”.

As a measure of renewed commitment to the cause, a declaration of intent was signed by representatives from key stakeholder organisations, as they declared intent as a group to work together and truly make Jamaica grow.

Some of the organisations represented included MSME Alliance, Private Sector Organisation Of Jamaica (PSOJ), Bankers Association, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), EXIM Bank, and Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries represented by state minister Floyd Green.


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