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Jobs are coming! Development bank sees big money boost for small businesses

Published:Monday | August 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Maureen Webber: We need to have a different way of looking at the small and medium enterprises.
Claudine Tracey, DBJ general manager, Strategic Serious Division.
Anthony Hylton (left), the minister of industry, investment and commerce, speaks at The Gleaner's Editors' Forum on 'Target Growth' at its North Street office on Wednesday, July 30. In the background is Reginald Nugent, senior adviser to the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce. - photos by Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) is projecting the creation of 12,000 jobs over the next five years which are to come as a result of a massive flow of capital being made available to the business sector, particularly the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sectors.

General manager for risk and strategy management at the DBJ, Claudine Tracey, said this is potentially game changing.

"We have assessed that through lending to the MSME sector we can, in five years, get $30 billion in investment and 12,000 in new jobs.

Tracey, who was a guest at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, said the DBJ made the projections having examined its supply of credit as well as the demand for funding in the marketplace. She said the assessment was in relation to the bank making loans available to the MSME sector.

The World Bank recently approved a US$50-million loan for the country's Competitiveness and Growth Project, which will benefit existing and new businesses through the streamlining of regulations and processes, public-private partnerships, as well as training and access to financing.

Industry Minister Anthony Hylton said the BPO sector is among those that will be generating the jobs. He said that some 2,500 new jobs are expected on line this year as a result of a US$10-million to US$15-million project which is to be situated in Manchester.

"Our demand is strong," the minister said of the potential in BPO.

"Our constraint is how rapidly we can create space for it," Hylton said.

Edison Galbraith, general manager, loan origination and portfolio management at the DBJ, said the bank has targeted the ICT, approving US$23 million in loans to create 500,000 square feet of space for the sector, which is expected to create 11,000 new jobs.

Meanwhile, Tracey said the World Bank-funded loan project will be focusing on skills training and capacity development within the MSME sector.

She said with many organisations now bypassing players in the MSME sector and going overseas to source aspects of their inputs, the World Bank project could assist them in improving their competitiveness, thereby enabling them to benefit through the supply chain.

Tracey said the World Bank intervention, which targets more than 180 SMEs, will lead to a 7.5 per cent increase in sales or US$10.8 million over six years.

But Maureen Webber, chief executive officer, Development Options Limited, said a "sea change" is needed as it relates to how financial institutions view players in the MSME sector. She noted that the last labour-force survey found that there were 412,600 own enterprises, which includes professionals such as doctors and lawyers, the majority of which are small enterprises.

"We need to have a different way of looking at the small and medium enterprises," Webber said.

She noted that the industry ministry is exploring the idea of providing venture capital for SMEs, but said more has to be done.

"I really think that we don't have our handle and the size or the need, nor are we inside the space of the small entrepreneur," Webber said.

She argued that despite the widely held view that Jamaica should invest in areas such as agriculture and the creative industries, important stakeholders such as financial institutions have not been stepping up to the plate with the provision of loans.

"We say it is our future, but we have not invested in their capacity building and given them the creative loans ... . None of the lenders want to lend to the creative industries," Webber lamented.

Jamaica has targeted GDP growth of 2.5 per cent by 2016-17 when the four-year extended fund facility ends. Jamaica has suffered from very low growth, high public debt, and serious social challenges.

The Government has told the IMF that it is committed to implementing a growth strategy built on time-bound fiscal consolidation and structural reforms aimed at reducing impediments to growth, complemented by strategic investment facilitation.

The Government has said it will be providing increased financing to MSMEs, wholesaled through the DBJ. It has set a target of doubling the amount of funds made available to MSMEs by 2016-17, relative to 2013-2014.