KINGSTON – State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Michael Stern, has underscored the pivotal role which business support organisations (BSOs) play in enhancing the local and regional business community, particularly on matters impacting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Speaking at the opening of the fourth two-day CARIFORUM Regional Meeting of BSOs at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, today March 28, Mr. Stern said the input of BSOs is critical in enabling SMEs to fully develop the capacity and requisite technical “know-how” to take advantage of existing and emerging business and trade opportunities, to ensure their survival and “getting them to the next level."
“As BSOs work with SMEs to improve their operational architecture and overall competitiveness, the primary objective is to help these businesses to achieve their full potential. There is no doubt that the right support can make a world of difference in terms of attaining success,” the State Minister argued.
Noting the challenges associated with the global economic downturn, with which the region continues to grapple, Mr. Stern said much time and resources are being expended by various administrations to ensure economic stability and predictability in the business landscape.
“Here, in Jamaica, we have been working diligently to create an enabling environment that will encourage business development and growth. We duly recognise the importance of entrepreneurship in lifting our economy out of this period of significant economic decline, particularly as it relates to small and medium-sized enterprises,” he said.
“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 the enhancement of innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness. They are, indeed, primary engines of job creation and poverty reduction and, as such, deserve every level of support that can possibly be afforded to them to achieve success in the face of great obstacles,” the State Minister added.
Mr. Stern argued that in light of the BSOs' role in “raising” the capabilities of businesses and, in the process, reinforcing their drive and competence, it is incumbent on all stakeholders to ensure that proper resourcing and the quality of service offered are maintained for this group. He pointed out that in an environment of limited resources and severely constrained finances, this issue must feature prominently as a regional priority.
“Ideally, BSOs should be resourced for the intensive list of activities for their constituents that include the organisation of networking and training opportunities, provision of information on funding and business/trade opportunities, development of market intelligence, and championing the concerns of the private sector. For this to come to fruition, it is imperative that we come up with strategies that will allow BSOs to become sustainable and viable,” he said, while pointing to the CARIFORUM Ministers Council’s acknowledgement of this.
Emphasising the importance of a comprehensive assessment of BSO needs, with a view to identifying financing options as well as facilitating the exploration of ways in which the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) and the European Union can support BSOs, Mr. Stern expressed the hope that the two-day forum will foster greater co-operation, and positive and pro-active recommendations.
Some 30 representatives from over 12 regional states are participating in the two-day meeting being jointly staged by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), and German International Co-operation (GIZ), under the theme: ‘Sustainability of Business Support Organisations.'
The meeting aims to promote the sustainability of national and regional BSOs; examine challenges affecting these, in order to identify common solutions; facilitate co-operation among all stakeholders; assess BSO needs and identify financing options and ways in which Caribbean Export and GIZ can facilitate relevant and timely support of BSOs under its 10th Regional Trade and Private Sector Development Programme.
It is expected that the meeting will yield a refined Caribbean Export Action Plan on how to improve its support to BSOs as well as improve co-operation among these stakeholders.
By DOUGLAS McNTOSH, JIS Reporter