President of the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ), Michael Leckie, is urging the Government to provide greater support to the micro, small and medium-size enterprise (MSME) sector, which has the potential to create more jobs and grow the economy.
“Look to us and look to the small farmers as the drivers of the economy,” Leckie said in a Gleaner interview, noting that if the Government were to provide more resources to assist MSMEs and farming, “there would definitely be a movement in the economy”.
The Holness administration rolled out a stimulus for small businesses hit by coronavirus pandemic last year in the form of CARE programme. As part of the initiative, a one-time grant of $100,000 was offered to eligible small businesses.
Late last year, the Senate approved the Income Tax (Amendment) Act, 2020, which would pave the way for MSMEs to benefit from a special income tax credit of $375,000.
With the Jamaican economy declining by 10.7 per cent in the third quarter, the SBAJ head said that MSMEs are likely to face serious challenges in 2021.
Leckie noted that the confidence levels in the business sector and among consumers have been waning, as reflected in the results of the last business and consumer surveys last year.
REDUCTION IN TRAVEL
While not knocking the efforts being put into reviving the tourism sector, Leckie indicated that COVID-19 and the new strain of the virus have led to a reduction in travel.
He said there should be a shift in the concentration of resources to the wholesale and retail sectors that are consumption-driven.
“There has to be a shift in the concentration to these sectors or divisions in the MSMEs,” he added.
The SBAJ head also highlighted the services sector, such as hairdressers, barbers and nail technicians.
Commenting on the impact of crime on the MSME sector, Leckie said that business persons “are overly concerned and it feeds into our psyche and confidence, and it does not help us at all, especially those in volatile areas.
“The small business persons call every time and say, ‘Can’t you impress on the Government to do something more for the boys on the side of the road who become targets for gangs?’”
In 2021, the SBAJ president said that he would be pushing for members of his association to embrace digital technology, noting that he was taking steps to set up a virtual business district and establish a digital directory for members across the country.