$100M to small business development

— as gov’t moves to rebuild ‘investor confidence’ amidst COVID-19 pandemic


SMALL businesses are often referred to as the lifeblood of any economy because they give entrepreneurs the opportunity to create meaningful jobs and foster local economies, allowing money to stay closer to communities.
In recognising the importance of this aspect of the commercial sector, government has allocated $100 million to the Small Business Development Fund, which is managed by the Small Business Bureau.

The bureau already has approximately 10,000 businesses in its database, and the development fund will create an opportunity for prospective small business owners to access loans and grants.

“We believe that it is long overdue to examine the feasibility of expanding the grant programme to a level above the current $200,000 ceiling,” said Minister of Public Infrastructure, Juan Edghill while presenting government’s $329.5 billion budget to the National Assembly, on Wednesday.
A further $212.1 million has been allocated to the Small Business Bureau, which includes funds to equip and operationalise the business incubators at Lethem and Belvedere.

Government, he said, will also be examining the possibility of creating a national entrepreneurship and innovation body to stimulate business development.
“Additionally, we have allocated $105 million to the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development programme, which is being redesigned to ensure that the intended outcomes of small and micro business development and livelihood improvements are being demonstrably achieved,” said Minister Edghill.
The new government has already announced a suite of measures that will benefit not just households, but also small businesses.

In outlining some of those measures, the minister said: “We have reversed the VAT on electricity, water, machinery and equipment, exports, and materials for the construction sector, among others. These measures will surely improve the viability of small business start-ups and the sustainability of existing businesses.”
Government’s intervention is seen as timely because there was a decline in investment interest during the first half of 2020. And, this was due mainly to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and Guyana’s protracted electoral process, which concluded only on August 2, 2020.

According to Minister Edghill, there was a total projected value of facilitated investment of $29 billion and 1,115 projected jobs created, but only a total of five investment agreements, valued at $12.3 billion, were executed during the reporting period.
The worldwide travel bans caused by COVID-19 severely affected investors’ access to Guyana. This, Edghill said, resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of meetings and promotional activities facilitated by the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest).

Additionally, the available investment capital was redirected, as many businesses were forced to suspend operations or operate within the confines of the curfew and also with reduced staff complements in order to comply with emergency public health measures implemented to minimise the impact of COVID-19.
Government, with the support of a development partner, is however reviewing recommendations for the re-organisation of GO-Invest, in order to make the agency more efficient and effective in investment promotion, while at the same time implementing new policies and initiatives to drive international exports.

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