Letters & Opinion

Where are the representative associations for small business persons?

“A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in.” – Nicole Snow

Image of Edward Harris
Harris at Large by Edward Harris

The contribution of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Sector to the St. Lucian economy, especially in the areas of employment and skills training cannot be over emphasised. The MSMEs sector is a major contributor to national employment in St. Lucia. Small business persons impact their communities by setting examples in self employment and entrepreneurship.

This is a great opportunity for all private sector associations to reach out to their members, and potential members to ensure that there is continuity post COVID 19 pandemic. With all that is going on, there is need for established associations such as the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association (SLISBA), the Southern Business Association, St. Lucia Manufacturers’ Association, and the Realtors Association St. Lucia Inc. to aggressively represent the interest of operators in the sector. In spite of the pandemic, there are many things that can be done to ensure that small business persons can survive now, and beyond COVID 19.

Too many of us give up and behave as though nothing can be done at this time. The world has not stopped. We are fortunate that COVID 19 is not as aggressive on our beautiful island as in many parts of the world, even in some other states in our region. It is alright to do what has to be done, and if we adhere to the protocols, we can continue to be productive citizens. The leaders of Associations should be proactive as possible in bringing together all the actors and finding solutions to the problems that confront their sector.

The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture has been reaching out to small business persons with programmes to educate and inform them. Their most recent initiative was the Small Members Programme. This is commendable. It is now time for private sector associations to seek out new areas of business activities to recommend to their membership and the wider business community, especially in the services sector.

In an effort to help to alleviate serious crimes, one of the principal objectives of all politicians should be to provide incentives to existing and potential Entrepreneurs that will facilitate job creation. Government should invest in Skills Training and New Product Development. Innovation should be encouraged and funded by Government.

This is an opportunity for Associations representing small businesses in all sub sectors within the private sector to be visible and pro active in assisting small businesses in resolving the many challenges they are facing due to the COVID 19 pandemic, which has been with us for almost eighteen months. As the pandemic continues, apart from redundancies, many small businesses may have to consider further downsizing.

In some cases employees were requested to accept reduced remuneration of between twenty five and thirty three percent, and in extreme circumstances, many businesses were forced to close. This void of heightened unemployment has to be filled. It is all about Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

To date the government has not offered any real direct financial assistance/grant to the small business sector. Apart from the intervention by banks to offer a few concessions, the banks are not likely to get involved in direct assistance/grant programmes. It is for governments to offer direct assistance/grant to established operators within the sector. This is a time to think outside of the box. Banks have to account to their depositors but government has to account to the people, and there is no way, the people will go against themselves. In the U.S., in spite of varying political positions, 72% of Americans backed the American Rescue Plan of 2021.

In the midst of my writing this article, a prominent businessman visited my office and told me that he is now purchasing products offered by the Knowledge Industry and following industry leaders like Tony Robbins and Robert Kiyosaki. I was elated. The question follows, how can we get involved in the Personal Development space such as Online Education/Elearning, Coaching, etc. which is estimated to be a 325 Billion US Dollar industry by 2025?

What about other businesses as launching the Caribbean’s first MLM Company with a Digital Product? There is also the opportunity to expand sales by recruiting Affiliates. It is time for us to get in line with current trends. This is not a time to be cautious in advancing new ideas and applying different approaches. I am confident that with all hands on deck, we will bounce back better.  Let us be bold. Let’s do it!

Let us pray for the intervention of our Creator in removing the scourge of violence that is plaguing our island. Keep the faith, help is on the way. Let us continue to dream big, and expect daily miracles.

Stay safe!

Edward Harris

Freelance Journalist/Realtor/Business Consultant

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://stluciagreatpropertydeals.com

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