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Small and Micro Business Sector Take on Challenges of Globalisation

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Contact: John Emmanuel

Friday, April 05, 2002 - Officials of the Ministry of Commerce say creating the mechanisms and institutional framework to facilitate the growth of a strong and vibrant small and micro enterprise sector continues to occupy their attention. The small and micro enterprise sector is seen as critical to the island’s development, in light of increasing pressures brought about through globalisation and free trade.

Addressing a three-day Small and Medium Enterprise Development Conference that ended here on Friday, April 05, 2002 Commerce, Tourism and Consumer Affairs Minister Honourable Philip J. Pierre told regional delegates that their deliberations were taking place against the background of a number of initiatives in the region, geared towards deepening the process of economic integration. Among them were moves towards the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and CARICOM negotiated Free Trade Agreements with the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Colombia, all geared towards increasing market access for regional producers.

St. Lucia, he noted, had made significant strides in assisting the small and micro enterprise sector by enacting special legislation together with the development of a National Industrial Policy, developed through extensive consultation with public and private sector interests.

“It outlines the role that the small business sector can play within the context of St. Lucia’s manufacturing environment. The Industrial Policy is market driven and seen to provide an enabling environment that will allow businesses to take full advantage of existing strengths and opportunities and add greater value to domestic manufacture through the use of local inputs. The handicraft sector is highlighted as an area where linkages can be created and the quality on life of rural folk enhanced,” Pierre said.

Government, he indicated, had provided well over $35 million over the past four years in the form of direct credit to the small and micro business sector to assist in its development. Indirect assistance has also been forthcoming via generous incentive programmes offered to small enterprises. Minister Pierre spoke of measures underway at transforming the Small Enterprise Development Unit (SEDU), housed within his Ministry into a private-sector-oriented company with backing from the European Union. With the continuous threat of globalisation looming overhead training, he noted, would be critical.

According to him, “In St. Lucia over 500 small business entrepreneurs have been trained in small business management, computer aided small business management, financial management, product development and market techniques. SEDU’s training programme is aimed at supporting the individual firms to strive to improve competitiveness in areas such as quality and standards, innovation in product and process, application of appropriate technology, improvement in productivity and marketing.”

Further, the minister said, the Government of Saint Lucia has strengthened the Bureau of Standards, not only as a regulator, but as a facilitator to ensure quality and standards for the small business sector.


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