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LEFT OF CENTRE: All sectors have valuable roles

Randolph Sandiford

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Small businesses can and do play an important role in the social and economic development of all countries and states. What mostly varies is the extent of that contribution.
Here in Barbados, discussions on the role of small business or the significance of its contribution usually indicate that something else is in the mix.
This is no casual conversation or discussion on the philosophical importance of this descriptive category of business.
So the real discussion is related to the general failure of the traditional approach to economic development in small states, which ascribes more significance to large companies and  conglomerates than to individual small business units.
One does not hear much on this topic when the economy is growing and the traditional sectors are flourishing. So let us deal with the real discussion.
In capitalist societies and certainly within democracies, it is a given that business policy is more influenced by those who are able to do so. Those who are more able are those who have a more concentrated interest in specific outcomes.
This tends to be the larger companies by definition and so it is accepted that this is the natural order of things.
But this natural order of things will fail from time to time, the major reason being that the interest of large companies and the interest of the state will sometimes conflict.
Today, with a major world recession approaching the three-year mark, governments are wishing for economic growth where job creation and consumer spending are major components.
Companies faced with uncertainty prefer cost reduction as a strategy to ride out the recession.
High levels of unemployment are neither socially nor politically accepted – it is not in the interest of any of the business groups within the society or economy.
Do we want to discuss the hidden importance of the small business sector or do we just want to pin the tail on small business because of current difficulties?
In the context of Barbados’ economy, each sector and subsector has a valuable role to play.
The policies of  Central Government must be consistent and appropriate for development.
These policies must be devised in a context where size and strength of lobby or influence are not significant determinants.
It is therefore the responsibility of  policymakers to ensure that enabling environments do not disadvantage the heart in the interest of the leg.
There is a functional purpose to both. Many small businesses are being created daily, hiring new staff and embarking on new and innovative projects.
Unfortunately they have to fight the establishment, which cannot envision growth within a recession.
Bureaucracy is entrenched and as we well realize, the effect is more pronounced on small businesses than on their large counterparts. We live in a very class-conscious society.
There is and has always been hope in the small business sector. Whether it becomes more recognized for its contribution so that it can influence policy in Barbados is left to be seen.

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