ONLY HUMAN: More than talk needed
THE NEW BUZZWORDS IN BARBADOS seem to be entrepreneurship and self-employment.
There is hardly a speech these days surrounding employment, labour relations, education and the economy without these being referred to and people, particularly the youth, encouraged to see them as their way to a sustainable future.
These two concepts are being sold as the way of ensuring independence and reliable employment and a way of creating personal wealth through the use of one’s skills.
These ideas have struck a harmonious chord with the growing numbers of young Barbadians who seem determined not to work for anyone, but instead use their competencies to be craftsmen of their own fate.
I speak of the computer techies, skilled artisans such as joiners and electricians, and professional artistes – singers, dancers, designers, light and sound technicians – who could visualize using their expertise to carve their niche in the business world here, within the region, and possibly beyond.
The Freundel Stuart administration should be commended for pushing this idea and seeking to break the long held view that a “good job” is only one in Government or with a big company.
That said, it will not be easy for this idea to become a commonplace reality anytime soon, given the dominance of state enterprises and the stranglehold the largest companies have on our small economy.
In other words, it would take more than talk to create an environment in which entrepreneurship and self-employment can flourish. Every facet of the equation to make this happen must also be established and nurtured to make it a reality.
Measures to achieve this include more favourable financing packages from banks to enable start-ups, incentives to encourage venture capitalists, swifter decision making policies by Government departments to ensure documents to take an initiative are not unduly delayed, timely payment by Government departments for services and products, as well as the timely repayment of VAT refunds and if late, payment with interest. These are some of the bugbears faced when one takes this enterprising path.
First, though, there is a need to correct an impression that entrepreneurship and self-employment are the same. They’re not necessarily so, even though both have a high element of risk.
Entrepreneurship relates to an individual who initiates and/or finances a commercial enterprise. If the new business employs the entrepreneur singly that would be self-employment. However, the entrepreneur may just establish the business then employ others to run it under their watchful eye.
You may recall that Ralph “Bizzy” Williams was adjudged the Ernst & Young Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 for the number of companies he had successfully initiated.
On the other hand, being self-employed means that an individual works independently of any company and earns a living by selling their expertise.
They could also run their own business and this would function on that aforesaid principle. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, artisans, mechanics, vendors and landscapers, to name a few, have been doing this for years.
If Government is serious about this initiative it needs to urgently put the mechanisms mentioned, plus others, in place.
This must be a matter of priority as all the talk and good intentions in the world do not achieve success. Only implementation of needed policies, and consistent policing of them to ensure they work does.
If Government is just promoting these ideas as a way of recording lower unemployment figures, as occurred under the Tom Adams regime when the category of voluntary idle was introduced, then few meaningful measures will be forthcoming in short order. They will be judged accordingly.
That apart, the biggest task I see to promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment is changing peoples’ thinking and attitude about the two.
An environment has to be created where people genuinely believe that though they are employed by a company, they are actually working for themselves.
They must also understand that those who take such risks and fail are not losers, and should not be ridiculed as such.
Admittedly, this change in mindset cannot occur overnight. But if it could be clearly imparted then the issue of low productivity and high absenteeism due to sick leave would be dealt a serious blow, as people would understand the relation of these to the success of a business.
That apart, it must be said that Government’s austere economic policies do not encourage an environment to promote either entrepreneurship or self-employment.
These succeed when people have disposable income to purchase goods and services, and these days the average person is living from pay cheque to pay cheque.
• Sanka Price is the SATURDAY SUN editor.