THE prayers of owners of small/medium businesses in St. Lucia have been answered following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Commerce and the SBFIC.
This groundbreaking move, which took place last week, solidified the relationship between the Savings Bank Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC) and the Ministry of Commerce, with the First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB) serving as the bridge needed to close a major societal gap.
The MoU ensures future collaboration for the betterment and improvement of the business sector in St. Lucia, namely the Small/Medium Enterprises and, through the SBFIC, they are hoping to bridge the divide between the banking sector and the SMEs, as access to finance is one of the biggest barriers for SMEs.
Dr. Juergen Engel, Country Representative, EC, expressed his gratitude to the ministry for being one of their first supporters of the initiative.
He said: “We are here to support the backbone of the economy of St. Lucia. We are here to support its small/medium-sized enterprises because we all believe that the small/medium-sized enterprises are in fact the backbone of each economy.”
Niclaus Bergmann, Managing Director of the SBFIC, gave some remarks of the project. He reflected on his first time coming to the Eastern Caribbean in 2013 after being invited by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to attend a workshop on the topic of the future of the banking sector in the ECCU.
He echoed the sentiments of Dr. Engel by reiterating the importance of small/medium- sized enterprises in St. Lucia and stressed that they should be the focal point for development by the respective government ministry.
Bergmann said: “Through the discussions, it also became obvious that there were other topics that are extremely important for the economic development and wellbeing of the region, and one of the topics that we very intensely discussed was the strengthening of SMEs in the region because it’s obvious that the likes of Amazon and Google probably will not move their headquarters here in the Caribbean.
“And, if so, they would not do it for the best reasons and they would not bring many staff here or hire many people here. So the economic development of the countries in the ECCU must come from inside and here it is the small and medium enterprises that are the driving force for creating new jobs in the region.”
He said there is a constant need for innovation as the said enterprises have the potential to develop into major enterprises and hold the key for the development of the nation. Bergmann said it is essential for the government to step in to provide regulation and a supporting environment for SMEs.
Minister for Commerce, Bradly Felix, said the signing ceremony marked the achievement of a significant milestone.
Quoting the words of noted author and lecturer in the field of organisational development, Peter M, Senge, Felix said: “Collaboration is vital to sustain profound change because without it, organisations are overwhelmed by the forces of the status quo.”
He continued: “My officers within the department of commerce, in their daily interactions with our clients, emphasise the need to collaborate and reach out to new partners and new agencies so that they can all grow together. The same concept holds true for us as a government; that not all knowledge and skill set resides within any one organisation.
“In order to improve, reach new horizons and go beyond our limits, we must seek out and engage external expertise which compliments our own, and expertise which will help guide us past the challenges ahead and beyond our current abilities.”
As a result of the MOU, the SBFIC will partner with the Department of Commerce to offer relevant training programmes to officers of the department.
Felix said he anticipates a long and fruitful relationship with the SBFIC as they assist the Department of Commerce in fulfilling their mandate of developing the SMEs and the wider commercial sector in St. Lucia.