Thursday, February 29, 2024

EDITORIAL – Entrepreneurship call

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FOR SOMETIME now there have been calls by Government spokesmen and others for Barbadians to embrace entrepreneurship. In a sense the call has become something of a recurring decimal, but it is a call which must be repeatedly made because the activities of the person who starts a business, however small, constitute a significant contribution to the society.Earlier this week, the call was again made, this time by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Affairs Patrick Todd during a ceremony at WIBISCO to mark the relaunch of its factory tours. While making the call for the development of a creative entrepreneurial culture capable of attaining a sustainable level of competitiveness and prosperity, Mr Todd remarked that “the current economic environment creates an unparalleled opportunity for public and private sector agencies to reform their institutions and ferret out any ineffectiveness within their business operation”.While we may not agree with all of Mr Todd’s views, his call for a creative entrepreneurial culture is one with which we can all accept. The development of businesses in any part of the democratic world is, and continues to be, a major factor in the development of the personal welfare and improvement in the quality of life for human beings. There would be social chaos if every “man, jack and child” had to be running around making his own shirt, manufacturing his own food and building the bricks to construct his own house.Modern society requires the development of businesses specialising in providing the products and services which we all need to make our lives and our societies better. The entrepreneur, whether male or female, small or big, is therefore a very important cog in our social and economic landscape. The young woman who opens a hair dressing salon or runs an operation offering massages, or caring for the nails of other young ladies, is as much an entrepreneur as the young man who starts a car tyre repair business, or who opens a one-door minimart in some rural district. All these operations are important to our island because inevitably they require for their continued delivery of service, the employment of at least one other person, or the purchase of product from elsewhere thereby helping the existence of some other enterprise.But the development of an enterprise culture requires more than men and women eager to chance their hand at business. It requires other supporting mechanisms within the society. Many commentators have pointed to the aggressive enterprise culture in the United States as a kind of benchmark to be emulated, and while we may not be able to import lock stock and barrel all their practices and systems, we may need to look at adopting some of the more useful devices for enabling entrepreneurs to start up and survive in times of crisis.The provision of venture capital without disabling strings attached must be seriously studied. Traditional banking practices require adequate security for every dollar lent. The entrepreneur always has ideas, but hardly ever has capital.  This mismatch must be corrected, if not by private capital, by state-funded or state-sponsored means. We also need clear and explicit Chapter 11 type legislation to enable companies and other enterprises to seek a “financial safe harbour”  when turbulence develops in the economy. Until these systems are in place, our culture of enterprise will not flourish, and some will continue to see business as the refuge of the untalented, and financial success will not be lionised here as it is in the United States.Entrepreneurship is about risk, and personal financial ruin should not be the order of day when an honest entrepreneur fall victim to the slings and arrows of economic misfortune.

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