Entrepreneurship on a shoestring budget
E DII TO RII A L
Now that public opinion is getting tired of the endless scandals that are coming to light ( and will continue to do so for quite some time), politicians have decided to turn their all-too-generous feelings to the plight of small business owners, representing more than 90% of economic activity and employment, but who are suffering the most due to a severe cash flow in the market.
TV crews are running around trying to catch up with MPs and party reps making statements and offering warm handshakes all over the place, as is the case of the Tseri Avenue shop owners who are moaning about the (much delayed) road works and how this will have a negative i mpact on their turnover. In this case, as was the stupid decision by parliament to ban the Minister of Labour from deregulating shop hours, the real interests of consumers and ordinary citizens have been sacrificed in an effort to win a vote or two, just 14 months away from the next elections.
To set the record straight, the Tseri project must go ahead, as pedestrians have been mowed down by speeding cars and in poor light conditions, while the potholes and cracked pavements are causing great harm to cars. The problem here is that the Mayor, the competent(?) government services and the locals should have agreed long ago on how the road should be developed, becoming an important thoroughfare for the whole area.
On the other hand, the Central Bank soap-opera has also inflicted immeasurable damage to the economy as recent data has shown that confidence among businesses and consumers alike has fallen, yet again.
Enter the Minister of Commerce, Industry, Tourism and Natural Gas who declared over the weekend that 66 mln euros would be provided in funding to SMEs, entrepreneurship, innovation, competitiveness and for exports. All this sounds fine and dandy, but has anyone bothered to find out what the real problem is? Throwing money in the face of struggling entrepreneurs is absolutely no good if the government machine and other stakeholders do not have the means to provide this cash in a fast and efficient way.
The Minister ought to push for the one-stop-shop concept, which has been struggling to get off the ground for lack of communication among public departments. On the other hand, the commercial banks have admitted that the money they have received from the European Investment Bank in order to pass it on to business and re-start growth has hardly drawn the necessary interest. And that is because the terms for the EIB funding are no different from any normal borrowing scheme.
Handing over large amounts to a handful of large businesses will hardly make a dent in the economy. This will only come if SMEs are given proper advice and services provided to promote exports, boosting growth that will start the cycle of money coming in and businesspeople who are far behind on their taxes to resume payments, earning funds for the state coffers once again.