Small Busi­ness Bu­reau still to pro­duce com­pre­hen­sive re­port on stew­ard­ship

Stabroek News - - FRONT PAGE -

Al­most four years after the then Pres­i­dent of Guyana, Don­ald Ramo­tar, launched the Small Busi­ness Bu­reau at the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Oc­to­ber 2013, the state-run small busi­ness sup­port agency is yet to place a com­pre­hen­sive re­port on its stew­ard­ship.

While the Bu­reau has, from time to time, pro­vided the me­dia with in­sights into as­pects of its work with the lo­cal small busi­ness com­mu­nity, it has been un­able, up un­til now, to pro­duce a holis­tic re­port that would al­low for a proper as­sess­ment of the ex­tent of its im­pact on the small busi­ness sec­tor.

The Bu­reau is still in the process of im­ple­ment­ing a US$5 mil­lion project aimed at en­hanc­ing ac­cess to train­ing and fi­nanc­ing for small busi­nesses. Named the Mi­cro and Small En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment Project (MSED), fund­ing is pro­vided through the Guyana REDD+ In­vest­ment

Fund (GRIF), a mech­a­nism cre­ated for the fi­nanc­ing of ac­tiv­i­ties iden­ti­fied un­der the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana’s Low Car­bon De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy (LCDS).

Stabroek Busi­ness has learnt that pub­li­ca­tion of a re­port cov­er­ing its ac­tiv­i­ties from its launch in 2013 may not be far away, though it is aware of no spe­cific time frame for the re­lease of the doc­u­ment. Mean­while, the dis­sem­i­na­tion of in­for­ma­tion on the work of the Bu­reau has been con­fined largely to lim­ited of­fi­cial pro­nounce­ments by the Bu­reau it­self or by the Min­istry of Busi­ness un­der whose ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol the SBB falls.

Just re­cently, the Bu­reau dis­closed through an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the 2017/2018 is­sue of the Guyana Of­fice for In­vest­ment (Go-In­vest) mag­a­zine, Guyana In­vest that since 2014 it had dis­bursed a to­tal of one hun­dred and twenty loans val­ued at $458.8 mil­lion for pro­jects un­der the MSED ini­tia­tive, a com­po­nent of the over­all pro­gramme specif­i­cally de­signed to of­fer in­cen­tives to mi­cro and small en­ter­prises in named low car­bon sec­tors.

The ar­ti­cle lists fruit and veg­etable farm­ing and pro­cess­ing, aqua­cul­ture, eco-tourism, busi­ness process out­sourc­ing, bioethanol, en­ergy ef­fi­cient trans­porta­tion and lo­gis­tics, wood pro­cess­ing, in­ter­net and com­puter-based ser­vices and art and craft as be­ing among the sec­tors/sub-sec­tors qual­i­fy­ing for loan con­sid­er­a­tion un­der the MSED scheme.

The long-awaited re­port of the Bu­reau is ex­pected to shed light on what would have been the re­duced job-cre­ation tar­get for MSED pro­jects sup­ported by SBB fi­nanc­ing, given the dis­clo­sure some time ago that the orig­i­nal tar­get of just over two thou­sand jobs could no longer be met. The re­port would also be ex­pected to con­tain progress re­ports on the var­i­ous SBB­funded pro­jects across the coun­try though this news­pa­per has al­ready been told that in­spec­tion of many of those pro­jects may have been lim­ited by a lack of ca­pac­ity on the part of the Bu­reau.

Re­cently, this news­pa­per made a for­mal re­quest to the Bu­reau for a com­pre­hen­sive re­port on its work, sub­mit­ting a num­ber of ques­tions in the process.

The Bu­reau, mean­while, is re­port­ing in the Go-In­vest pub­li­ca­tion that a to­tal of 1373 per­sons ben­e­fit­ted from its train­ing pro­grammes in 2016 in ar­eas which in­clude fi­nance, op­er­a­tional man­age­ment, ac­count­ing, mar­ket­ing strat­egy and hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment as well as hands-on vo­ca­tional train­ing skills.

Of­fi­cially, the Small Busi­ness Bu­reau lists its “strate­gic fo­cus and ob­jec­tives as” rais­ing the vis­i­bil­ity of small busi­nesses; mak­ing it eas­ier for small busi­nesses to ac­cess gov­ern­ment ser­vices and per­mits; es­pous­ing pol­icy ad­vo­cacy for an im­proved en­vi­ron­ment for small busi­nesses; im­ple­ment­ing pro­grammes to en­cour­age small busi­nesses to grow and de­velop; pro­vid­ing more value-added and jobs; serv­ing as a point agency for ex­per­tise and data on small busi­nesses and cre­at­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing sec­tor clus­ters and net­works for busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion.

Up un­til now there is lit­tle hard ev­i­dence of progress by the SBB in the ful­fill­ment of one of its key func­tional ar­eas, that is, de­liv­er­ing on “a guar­an­tee and com­mit­ment of 20% gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment from small busi­nesses.”

The re­cent Guyana Of­fice for In­vest­ment mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle, pro­vides im­ple­men­ta­tion de­tails of other SBB pro­jects in­clud­ing its Youth Biz 592 Project launched in March this year in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity and un­der which eighty seven youths from de­pressed com­mu­ni­ties “in­clu­sive of Sophia/Turkeyen and An­goy’s Av­enue and Canje Ber­bice” are to ben­e­fit from “en­trepreneur­ship train­ing and sup­port nec­es­sary for ef­fect­ing behavioral change” re­quired for suc­cess ‘as busi­ness own­ers or em­ploy­ees.” The pro­gramme, the Bu­reau says, “has since recorded a 98% suc­cess rate with a to­tal of eighty five per­sons grad­u­at­ing and ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau fi­nan­cial grants are to be dis­bursed to the youths for whom busi­ness plans have been ap­proved.

How­ever, while the Bu­reau had earlier told this news­pa­per that it was sat­is­fied with the per­for­mance of its train­ing part­ners, this news­pa­per has re­ceived re­ports from sources close to the project of con­tro­versy over the al­lo­ca­tion of train­ing con­tracts that have raised ques­tions about high con­tract fees among other ar­eas.

Mem­bers of staff of the Small Busi­ness Bu­reau. Seated at cen­tre is the Bu­reau’s re­cently ap­pointed Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Dr. Low­ell Porter

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