The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) has been facilitating various initiatives to create an enabling environment for the Micro, Small and Medium-size Enterprise (MSME) sector.
Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank session, Director of the MSME Division within the Ministry, Andrene Collings said that the division is tasked with reviewing policies and guiding efforts to increase financing, market access and support services for MSMEs.
“The establishment of the Division is a good structural move, as the government recognize the value and importance of the MSME sector and so this division will be a structured focal point within the ministry, that has been assigned the small business development portfolio,” Mrs. Collings said.
She informed that the first task of the recently-established division was to update the MSME policy which will be tabled in the Houses of Parliament in short order.
First adopted by Parliament in 2013, the Policy serves as a comprehensive framework for the implementation of strategies to support the growth and development of the MSME sector.
Parts of the Policy under revision include: an alignment of the definition of MSMEs to match international standards; and the Security Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) Act.
In terms of improved access to finance, Mrs. Collings noted that the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), which is the premier micro-financing entity, has been continuously conducting research to create new products to meet the needs of the sector.
In addition, a $1-billion loan facility is being made available by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to assist small and medium-sized tourism enterprises to upgrade their properties and attractions. The funding is available through the National Export-Import (EXIM) Bank.
Mrs. Collings noted too that the SIPP Act provides for increased access to financing by MSMEs, by allowing personal property (non-real estate assets) to be used as collateral for loans.
“So instead of traditional collateral such as land and house, persons may use furniture, equipment and other movable assets,” she outlined.
As it relates to technical and support services, the Director said that the MSME Division is seeking to create a network of small business advisory centres across the island.
“The goal is to provide for the MSMEs what Rural Agricultural Development Authority provides to the farmers, as we recognize that every small business in Jamaica has the right to access business advisory service and so, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) and other entities are equipped to facilitate these valuable services,” Mrs. Collings noted.
She argued that the MSME sector accounts for the vast majority of the businesses in Jamaica.
“We say that the MSME is the engine of growth but there has to be infrastructures for an engine to be of any value, so the responsibility of the government then, is to ensure that it creates an enabling environment so that the engine can start and move in an appropriate direction,” Mrs. Collings reasoned.