Patria-Kaye Aarons | Dear Ministry of Economic Growth
I got so many emails from my July 11 article about new business ideas. People have a real interest in entrepreneurship, whether as a side hustle, or an escape from a job they hate, or they're tired of having a degree and still being jobless, or just because they want to capitalise on an opportunity.
A couple other made-in-Jamaica ideas came to mind after the article:
- local hair relaxer with Jamaican castor oil.
- Menthol manufacturing ... (it's made from mint, and not too difficult to do).
- A local toy line.
- Jamaican party supplies (printed napkins, plates, cups, balloons, etc,)
I have to shout out my two new favourites, Bella's Boutique nail polish - a local brand of nail polish with so much Jamaican personality - and also big props to Seprod for launching locally made almond milk!
I have a few requests of either the Ministry of Economic Growth or Ministry of Finance.
Detailed Import Bill
The reality is, there are many opportunities for Jamaicans to fill a gap serviced now only by imported products. There's lots of talk about reducing Jamaica's import bill. It's an imperative that comes from both the Government and private-sector organisations. There's constant talk of using things Jamaican, so why then it it so difficult to find a detailed list of things Jamaica imports? Some people just want to start a business, and want to do so with some semblance of a guarantee that there's a need for the service. Consolidating and publishing the import bill online, somewhere accessible, will enable Jamaicans to see where there's a need and figure out how they can fill it.
GCT Deferment for New Businesses
While there is GCT deferment in place now, it's not benefiting those who need it most. Unless you are registered for GCT, you can't access the deferment, and you can't register for GCT unless you have bankable projections to hit J$3 million in annual sales. A clumsy catch-22.
The start-up expenses of any business are significant. They are burdensome on the entrepreneur, and the early stage of business is when most companies need the biggest wiggle room. They are making investments bringing in machinery and packaging, setting up offices, etc. All this is a necessary part of starting a new business, and paying GCT upfront on these items puts a strain on cash that could be used as working capital. Start-ups need GCT deferment before they make their first sale.
Payroll Financing Facility
Come the 25th of the month, every employee deserves their salary. Making payroll is perhaps one of the biggest worries business owners face. So many circumstances can affect that monthly payout, and the ___ can be devastating. Late or unpaid salaries don't only affect the employees, but they also affect their entire households, and with as many single-salaried households as we have in Jamaica, we can't afford the ripple effect. My suggestion is that either through DBJ or EXIM, a quick turnaround facility should be created that will release enough funds to cover payroll for the month. It needs to be disbursed in two or three days.
Communicate Benefits Better
There's still a big communication gap. There are benefits to businesses that Jamaican firms, especially SMEs, are not maximising because they are simply unaware. Benefits that the big brands and foreign companies know about and make use of. I've encountered far too many SMEs who believe these benefits are only for the legacy companies or foreign investors, and in some cases, it isn't true. Communicate better. Upon registering at the Companies Office, might I suggest industry-specific communication at that touchpoint? Once someone registers a manufacturing business, for example, when she gets her certificate, she should be made aware of waivers on duty for machinery and packaging importation, they should be told about the GCT deferment, they should be told about employee tax credits, etc.
Small changes have the potential to create big economic growth.