For several weeks, I wanted to write a piece on the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association (SLISBA) but being overwhelmed by COVID 19 misinformation, I needed to take a stand, including my own testimony in relation to the issue of vaccination. I deferred until now when I decided that saying nothing about this vital organisation is not an option. My decision was further hastened when I saw in Issue #41 of the Government Gazette dated Monday, 11th October 2021 (Page 19) that the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association Ltd. will be struck off the Register of Companies in 30 days if a certain action is not taken.
If there is ever a time that SLISBA is needed, it is now. SLISBA has always been an important voice of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector. This voice has been silent for several years with small business persons left to fend for themselves. It has been almost three years of very little representation of the sector, with business persons relying on the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture to know what is going on in the Private Sector. There was a time when SLISBA’s members were vocal and visible, making their presence felt. Who is the current President of SLISBA? No one seems to know. As a past Secretary/Treasurer and President of the Association, I have an interest in the Association and will like it to be a viable and vibrant entity where its members can prosper and grow.
SLISBA was blessed with exemplary leadership in past years and the organisation, although it did not get the level of support needed from international agencies and governments, its committed members ensured that the association was involved in the economic affairs of the country. Our members sat on Boards and the association was a reliable source of information sought by regional and international agencies. SLISBA played an active role within the Private Sector of Saint Lucia. It is my humble opinion that at this juncture there is a need for SLISBA to play an even greater role. It is worth remembering SLISBA’s role in the extension of Article 164 representing a list of Approved products within the LDCs. There are many areas where SLISBA’s members can play a meaningful role in sharing their expertise.
The situation as it relates to supplies to the retail industry is getting serious. This will not be the usual Christmas season. Already, there are shortages in the USA and vessels with supplies are being anchored at sea or held up at ports due to a lack of truckers. COVID 19 is not only about bringing about suffering and deaths in our communities but has created a new dynamic in the work environment. Many people will not be going back to their regular work, at least for now.
These impending shortages may not have been of such grave concern to us if the same level of small and medium businesses had been maintained even with the challenges of COVID 19. Our grocery supply is locked into a hand full of distributors who are latched on to established brands. As a result, new brands entering the market are likely to be almost nonexistent. We must build back with a broader base, by giving small businesses the necessary support, especially financial, to better serve consumers. SLISBA’s intervention is needed.
The Speculator Shops as we used to refer to them are no longer seen as serious competitors. Large Fashion stores are experiencing declining sales due to EBay, Amazon and Alibaba. New businesses came on the scene as a result, including a new profession which I refer to as Online Order Consultant. SLISBA should be a well supported organisation to get the MSMEs on the move to fill the gap wherever it occurs and forge new areas of business to facilitate dislocated business persons. Small business persons must regain their voices to contribute to the development of our country.
Let us make every effort to stay safe, adhere to the protocols and pray for deliverance from the COVID 19 pandemic so that in the end, it will be well with us. Keep the faith. Yahweh is in charge!
Freelance Journalist/Realtor/Business Consultant