Guyana Times-May 14,2012
Some local business owners too laid-back – GCCI
Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Senior Vice President Lance Hinds is calling on local businesses to become more proactive in the promotion of their companies.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Hinds chided local business owners for being extremely laid-back, urging them to become more dynamic and aggressive.
“The chamber interest is driven by the fact that despite the existence of these and similar initiatives in the region, for many years the participation of Guyana at these events has been extremely limited,” Hinds lamented.
The Carib Export Development Agency is a regional export trade and investment promotion organisation which provides financial assistance to small businesses with export potential through a direct assistance scheme funded by the European Union (EU).
Hinds said he could not overemphasise the importance of small business enterprises to the development of Guyana and the regional economy.
The business executive cited his attendance at an innovative conference in Belize last year, and said he was distressed to discover than less than five per cent of the proposals were from Guyanese.
“Now we can discuss all the reason why this situation exists but as a primary business support organisation in Guyana, we want to make it clear that it is the position of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce that this state of affairs cannot continue, and as such, we are committed to being a primary instrument in the significant improvement in the situation,” the business executive said.
Hinds, who is a beneficiary of the programme, admitted that the reality, however, is that most small businesses are unable to access the facilities available in the local environment due to certain conditionality and regulations.
According to him, it is agencies like Carib Export that can fill these gaps, in many instances, to support the growth of many businesses.
Hinds noted that the agency can help local businesses to scale-up, expand their regional presence, and extend their reach.
He added that GCCI plans to engage further to see how best it can partner with other agencies to ensure local businesses continue to participate in regional trade initiatives in keeping with the chamber’s mandate to be a strong advocate for the business community.
Local businessmen and women are being given an opportunity to increase their eligibility for grant funding under the Regional Private Sector Development Programme and the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).
The loans are applicable to the 15 member Cariforum grouping, which includes all Caricom countries excluding Montserrat, and including the Dominican Republic.
Senior Grant Advisor Kirk Brown emphasised the need for interested businesses to be registered.
“You need to be legally registered as an individual or as a company here in Guyana or any other Cariforum member states. So again, let me state that if you have two companies that are legally registered here in Guyana, even though you are the major shareholder, you can apply for this programme. We are not concerned about how many companies you own.”
Brown provided tips on ways to write grant proposals, and lamented the fact that there was no Guyanese applicant in the small loan category last year.
“We in the Caribbean just like big money, we do not like to creep, we don’t like to crawl; we like to run fast. The truth is we need to realise that we can attack those areas which can provide maximum returns,” Brown said.
When this is not heeded, Brown said that businesses are exposing themselves and are not in a position to properly articulate projects or finance it, and put themselves into a very competitive process.
“This is important because only the best of the best are awarded grant funding.”
He explained that business support organisations such as the GCCI or Go-Invest, can apply directly for the larger grant funding and outlined reasons for this.
“Let’s say Go-Invest wanted to take a number of persons to establish a business and expose them to markets there and the export process, they certainly can apply for funding for that as well,” Brown explained. The senior grant advisor said many firms have complained that the process is onerous and too complicated, and that only certain businesses benefit from grant schemes.
However, he disclosed that since the Caribbean is a very “word of mouth” society that is accepting of hearsay, people are not prone to seek out facts.
He advised that businesses cannot properly apply for the scheme if they are unaware of the guidelines and fail to read the source documents.
Brown identified this as one of the biggest hindrance and mistake businesses make in accessing the scheme. The application is available in Dutch, French, English and Spanish since the organisation is regional, and caters to the needs of the 15 member states.
The grant fund covers a wide range of businesses, but does not support start-ups, firms in operation for less than two years, universities, NGO, social groups or human rights organisations.