Wednesday, 30 March 2011 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua & Barbuda is being represented at the fourth CARIFORUM Regional Meeting of Business Support Organisation (BSOs) in Jamaica, as delegates meet to strategise on how to exploit opportunities under the 10th European Development Fund.
Representatives from the government’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Unit and the Antigua & Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), the recently-launched Antigua & Barbuda Coalition of Service Industries Inc, and the Antigua & Barbuda Chamber of Commerce & Industry have been taking part in the wide-ranging discussions at the two-day conference which got star ted on Monday.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), organisers of the meeting, with support from the German International Cooperation (GIZ) agency and funded by the European Union (EU), said the conference came against the backdrop of “the need for efficient and sustainable BSOs in the Caribbean” which was recognised in the “Caribbean Regional Economic Integration and Cooperation Roadmap” as approved by the CARIFORUM Council of Ministers in 2009.
Support for Business Organisations was therefore included in the 10th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme to be implemented by Caribbean Export Development Agency.
Recognising that CARIFORUM’s regional and national BSOs “are, in general, poorly resourced…(a) situation severely hampers their ability to offer adequate services to their constituency (mainly SMEs), which, in turn affects their overall competitiveness. Most of the Caribbean BSOs are small (having 10 or fewer staff) and generally have insufficient in-house technical capacity.”
Furthermore, financial constraints result in the delivery of sub-standard and uneven services, which threatens their long-term sustainability.
The meeting is seeking to achieve “a refined Caribbean Export Action Plan on how to improve its support to BSOs under its 10th Regional Trade and Private Sector Development Programme; and Improved cooperation among BSOs.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Jamaica’s State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce Michael Stern underscored the pivotal role which business support organisations (BSOs) play in enhancing the local and regional business community, particularly on matters impacting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Stern said the input of BSOs is critical in enabling SMEs to fully develop the capacity and requisite technical “know-how” to take advantage of existing and emerging business and trade opportunities, to ensure their survival and “getting them to the next level."
“As BSOs work with SMEs to improve their operational architecture and overall competitiveness, the primary objective is to help these businesses to achieve their full potential. There is no doubt that the right support can make a world of difference in terms of attaining success,” he said.
Noting the challenges associated with the global economic downturn, with which the region continues to grapple, Stern said a lot of time and resources are being expended by various administrations to ensure economic stability and predictability in the business landscape.
“Here, in Jamaica, we have been working diligently to create an enabling environment that will encourage business development and growth.
We duly recognise the importance of entrepreneurship in lifting our economy out of this period of significant economic decline, particularly as it relates to small and medium-sized enterprises,” he said.
Stern argued that in light of the BSOs' role in “raising” the capabilities of businesses and, in the process, reinforcing their drive and competence, it is incumbent on all stakeholders to ensure that proper resourcing and the quality of service offered are maintained for this group. He pointed out that in an environment of limited resources and severely constrained finances, this issue must feature prominently as a regional priority.
“Ideally, BSOs should be resourced for the intensive list of activities for their constituents that include the organisation of networking and training opportunities, provision of information on funding and business/trade opportunities, development of market intelligence, and championing the concerns of the private sector. For this to come to fruition, it is imperative that we come up with strategies that will allow BSOs to become sustainable and viable,” he said, while pointing to the CARIFORUM Ministers Council’s acknowledgement of this.
Emphasising the importance of a comprehensive assessment of BSO needs, with a view to identifying financing options as well as facilitating the exploration of ways in which the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) and the European Union can support BSOs, Stern expressed the hope that the two-day forum will foster greater co-operation, and positive and pro-active recommendations.
Some 30 representatives from over 12 regional states are participating.