In T&T: Govt looks to give SMEs a shoulder up

19 January 2012


Some aid to the ‘small man’ in earning their “Fair Share.” SMEs encouraged to become more “progressive” and tap into youthful talent pool.

Labour Minister Errol McLeod announced yesterday that the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector would soon have an opportunity to provide its services to the public sector through the ministry’s Fair Share Programme. McLeod said the Fair Share Programme is just one of the initiatives by the Government to assist in developing the SME sector. McLeod, who was speaking yesterday at the Third Biennial Conference for SMEs, held at the Trinidad Hilton hotel in St Ann’s, explained that the various ministries would seek out SMEs’ services for contract  valued less than $1 million. The SME business conference was hosted by the Nova Committee of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

The programme, which would be officially launched in about two weeks, would serve to create revenue opportunities for SMEs. McLeod quickly warned SMEs to be mindful that the “programme is not a handout, but a shoulder for them to stand on.” Questioned by the media as to what structures the ministry has in place to ensure that the Fair Share Programme is fairly executed, McLeod replied: “It is now being developed as it would be launched in a couple weeks’ time. I hope with all things being equal, it would allow for very objective examinations of the applications by the SMEs. But I cannot guarantee that it’s going to be all nice.” McLeod stated that there would be a criteria in place where SMEs would have to bid for a particular project or job.

McLeod pointed to another programme, National Integrated Incubator System, launched in October 2011, that would provide entrepreneurial development. He advised the sector to equipped itself with the right resources with a specific focus on the youth. He said that SMEs need to tap into the young and hire the best people, as this approach would help maximise on intellectual capital and attract more better paying jobs. He said SMEs’ operations must be sufficiently equipped with the capacity to survive and flourish in any kind of environment. “They must have the internal fortitude to remain viable and become more progressive.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Sabga, president of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said in light of the economic challenges SMEs face, the chamber’s board has taken the decision to focus more on the development of SMEs over the next three years. He pointed out that the SME sector is viewed in many quarters as a vital engine of growth. He said that SMEs in T&T have mushroomed over the last decade, numbering some 18,000 by the end of 2010, employing 200,00 persons and contributing nearly 28 per cent to gross domestic product. While SMEs have some advantages, such as being substantial generators of employment and having the capacity to respond more readily to vagaries in the market—Sabga stated that the sector also endures a number of constraints. At the top of the list is the non-availability of loan finance, low levels of technology, research and development and inadequate infrastructure.

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