ON THE RIGHT: Hurdles for local entrepreneurs
If we want to move to the next level, we have to be more entrepreneurial. It doesn’t mean everyone has to be an entrepreneur; it means that we need to have a significant core set of people who are entrepreneurs and a society that is more entrepreneurial.
I don’t believe twe don’t have enough entrepreneurs because we have a cultural problem. You often hear people say culturally we are not entrepreneurs, and that we have to teach it in the classrooms. We have no cultural problem with entrepreneurs – Barbadians are entrepreneurial, West Indians are entrepreneurial.
Our problem is what is stopping our entrepreneurs being entrepreneurial – that is the fundamental problem we need to address. One problem is our size. when you are an entrepreneur thinking about business you need to think about the size of the market.
The smaller you are, the greater the external market is critical to business and entrepreneurism. the Barbados market is important, essential, the first step, but entrepreneurs need to be global in their mindset. And one of the problems about being globally competitive in this region is transport costs.
We as a region have the highest transport costs in the world and so when one is thinking being an entrepreneur and being international, one has to think about developing products that quite frankly and quite literally are light.
Heavy goods are expensive to transport. The lightest good can travel down a telephone optic wire and that is why I encourage a professional entrepreneurism in Barbados, where we are exporting professional services down broadband connectivity, where we have paramedics, paralegals, paraaccountants selling services around the world.
That is why broadband activity is not a luxury; it is essential.
A second obstacle, the new colonialism of today’s world, is called codes and standards. These codes and standards are set in the rich countries and they are set often with complete inapplicability to countries like Barbados.
All we can do is make sure that we turn them into platforms of success.
Let me now turn to some of the local obstacles. I believe we criminalize small business. The things that our people can do they find very hard to do legally. Incorporation is expensive and time consuming, places for business to be are hard, we don’t make it easy, we don’t have a whole range of vendor licensed spots so they can come easily and rent.
Many entrepreneurs I speak to say “My problem is I can’t get financing”. Because most entrepreneurs are starting out in a twilight zone of the galaxy, it’s very hard for governments to fund them. that’s why you find that publicly supported microfinance funds are full of cash and they are full of cash this year, next year and the next year because it’s hard for them to find legitimate businesses that they can lend to.
How are entrepreneurs funded around the world? They are not funded by banks, they are not funded by government – they are funded by that third job, they are funded by paying astronomical interest on their credit cards, 28 per cent etcetera, but by doing that they show that the one person who knows most about this product is backing it fully.
Entrepreneurism is critical, it’s important, it’s not the be-all and end-all but it’s a critical component in our society.
• Avinash Persaud is an economist and chairman of Intelligence Capital Limited.