HON KARL SAMUDA, MINISTER OF INDUSTRY, INVESTMENT AND COMMERCE SPEAKER’S FORUM AT THE TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION CENTRE


Over the years, the small business community has demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience. Many have been the challenges, road-blocks and bureaucratic hurdles that confronted the sector. The survival and continued viability of many small enterprises speaks volumes to this fact.
As government, we recognize that small businesses are the bed-rock of national development. Our economic landscape is replete with examples of enterprises that have started small and today have grown and matured beyond expectations. It is this recognition that is driving our efforts to increase the support of the sector in a more focused, deliberate and facilitatory manner.
In support of the sector, all relevant state agencies have been mandated to enhance the provision of general business development services; foster best practices and modern know-how; improve access and the flow of affordable credit through programmed interventions, assist small businesses with correcting their organizational weaknesses, costly mistakes and thus help to minimize business failure.
The Honourable Prime Minister Bruce Golding has articulated a vision for Jamaica . where “everyone may not be rich but no one needs to be poor”. This vision provides a sound basis for engagement of all Jamaicans, including members of the business community. We must focus on developing and constructing a framework of faith and confidence in ourselves. in the strength resilience and creativity of our people. The Government of Jamaica is committed to the formulation and implementation of macro-economic policies aimed at: attracting new investments; generating increased employment; creating a more competitive economy; achieving accelerated economic growth and joining the ranks of the developed status within three decades.
In this process, the micro, small and medium enterprises has a most critical role. Micro, small and medium sized businesses form the backbone of Jamaica’s economy, accounting for a significant portion of national employment.
We believe that Micro and small enterprises are crucial to the Jamaican economy because of their role in the production and distribution of goods and services and in the enhancement of innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness. Data from the Employed Labour Force by Employment Status for 2006 showed that, the Own Account (sole traders) category, which constitutes the vast majority of MSEs accounted for approximately 34.0 per cent (367, 500 persons) of the total employed labour force. Wholesaling and Retailing employed approximately 24.0 per cent of the labour force. Of note is the estimate that the informal economy accounts for an estimated 40 percent to the country’s GDP.
Economists point to the rise of a new type of small businesses whereby people can stay at home to perform work on their computers that formerly had to be done at the office. “Telecommuters” is another term used more frequently today to refer to home-based employment. Many jobs that used to require workers’ physical presence in the office can now be performed from home.
The increasing importance of Micro and Small Enterprises stands out as a major source of income for women and young entrepreneurs. Many of these individuals start out by “trying a thing” and have through hard work and determination, grown their businesses and today have emerged as successful entrepreneurs in their own right.
In fact, encouraging activity in the sector is widely embraced by both national and international development agencies as an effective and sustainable means of addressing poverty, unemployment and the enhancement of a strong domestic economy. USAID
One of the challenges to national development is ensuring that these enterprising men, women and young people are brought into the economic mainstream. When a small business becomes formalized, the owners of that business can benefit from training, technical support, soft loans, marketing and promotional programmes and the various government and non-government assistance that can grow the business and increase its profits.
Significant interventions include the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP), the euro28.7 million technical assistance programme funded by the European Union which started in 2005. The programme is geared at enhancing the competitiveness of firms, as well as strengthening their support and representative organisations. The establishment of small business incubators for the nurturing of existing micro enterprises and potential start-ups and the establishment of community-based production centres is to be accelerated. Government will provide a range of support through its various agencies in the establishment of the incubators.
The overall goal of the project is to facilitate the creation of sustainable employment opportunities for the target beneficiaries.
The Programme will seek to increase the rate of small business formations and to decrease the failure rate of entrepreneurial and enterprise activity by assisting them to commercialize their products, processes and services of quality and bringing them to market.
These include activities that can be made viable and profitable by the injection of various resources and assistance including access to operating capital; access to non-cash lines of credit; subsidized rent; common services that reduce overhead and variable costs; and on site management counselling.
We will utilize consultations with the Technology Innovation Center, the Jamaica Employers Federation, the Jamaica Exporters Association, the Jamaica Business Development Centre, the Self-Start Fund, the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, the Small Business Association of Jamaica and other relevant stakeholders to fine-tune an appropriate approach.
Support Services: JBDC: The Jamaica Business Development Centre is the institution mandated to lead the Government’s initiative to facilitate the sustainable development of the Micro and Small Enterprises in Jamaica. The company’s mandate is being implemented by experts in design, product development, engineering, business development, business analysis and research.
The JBDC operates as a national network broker and facilitates clients, especially “start-up” businesses, to make efficient links with both government and private sector agencies. To this end, the Centre hosts various monthly training workshops in which agencies and institutions that provide support to the MSME sector are incorporated.
One recent JBDC project of note is JamBIC, business information centres which offer a combination of products, services, publications and expert referrals to help clients get current and comprehensive business information on a wide range of topics such as writing a business plan, starting a business, finding new markets and preparing for exporting.
SRC: The tremendous work that the Scientific Research Council has achieved over the past five years is highly commendable. It harmonizes with the policy of the government to gradually shift the focus from agriculture to agro-industry. Primary production must now increasingly make way for value-added products capable of capturing niche markets.
In addition to the sale of the formulation of the Real Jamaica Mannish Water to Caribbean Consumers Commodity Ltd, the SRC over the years has sold some seventeen food formulations which include:. Jerk Seasoning. Scheduled process for Callaloo in Brine. Scheduled process for Ackee in Brine. Line of Soups; Gungo Peas with and without meat and Red Peas with and without meat. Plantain and Banana Chips. Minimally Processed foods: Green Bananas, Yellow yam and Sweet Potato . Sorrel Squash
The Scientific Research Council is being challenged to increase its developmental activities for the micro and small business sector. There is the need to merge the various existing small, struggling government research entities into a modern, efficient, cutting-edge National Research & Development Centre with the SRC playing a key role, in order to achieve desirable synergies between commercial and academic research and to develop products and processes that will attract investments and secure markets here and overseas. The concept that the SRC has employed in divesting this formulation represents a perfect example of the practicability of the business incubators.
We have challenged the SRC to fast track the establishment of Agro-processing business incubators.
The renewed focus on facilitating the development of micro, medium and small enterprises is very timely. Our traditional exports are under threat. Guaranteed quotas and trade preferences are disappearing fast, while the information and communication technology revolution has created a new and challenging global economy. The Economic Partnership Agreement between the Cariforum States, and the European Community and its Member States (EPA), presents challenges as well as opportunities for small and micro enterprises to target niche markets and play a critical role in the economic diversification that the new environment presents.
Not only can these products form the basis for lucrative small enterprises, they present a viable alternative to our traditional production. For too long we have remained a nation of samples and the need to grow our economy and generate jobs dictate that we must change gears.
Indeed, the transformation and significant investments currently taking place in tourism, provide tremendous linkage opportunities, and it is only natural that the agriculture, food processing, craft, neutraceuticals and furniture sub sectors plug into the growth opportunity.

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