Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Investors urged to support small business sector

Published:Friday | February 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
In this January 25, 2018, file photo, Minister of Finance Audley Shaw (left) is greeted by Small Business Association of Jamaica President Hugh Johnson at the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association annual general meeting.

President of the Small Business Association of Jamaica Hugh Johnson is warning against ignoring the value of the small business sector and its importance in fuelling a strong and sustainable economic growth.

He told The Gleaner that while the signs suggest that the country is on the right economic path, the sector is still largely being ignored by investors, who opt instead for big-name companies in which to put their investments.

"The trajectory, by all accounts, gives the impression we are on the right path, but in this improving economy, the small-business sector is being ignored," Johnson said.

The Jamaican economy grew by 1.1 per cent for the October-December 2017 quarter, the strongest quarterly growth for the 2017 calendar year, while real GDP is estimated to have grown by 0.5 per cent, representing the fifth consecutive year of GDP growth.

But in spite of those trends, Johnson pointed out that it was mostly relative growth and that wages, which is a critical part of the economic landscape, remained flat or frozen in some instances.

"These elements on their own mean that the kind of high-level and sustainable growth rates, which we all would like to see, is just not happening. And this is because, for the most part, there has not been much push to revitalise the small-business sector," he said.

He stressed that a level playing field must be carefully crafted to give small-business owners more latitude for expansion, where jobs will be created and wages are raised to satisfy the needs of individuals.


Small and marginal businesses losing $2 billion per month in fees


"Small business everywhere and in all countries of the world is the engine of growth. There is no getting around that. Yet we pay scant regard to its power here in Jamaica, while giving more to the big companies and corporations," said Hugh Johnson, president of the Small Business Association of Jamaica.

"But, on the other hand, I must also say that I have never seen a more open-minded minister in enabling small business owners to have access to funding," he said of finance and planning minister Audley Shaw.

At the same time, Johnson admits that small and marginal businesses are losing in the region of some $2 billion per month in fees, which is proving to be debilitating to any growth prospect.

"The ditching of the banking bill in the Parliament recently will also affect the prospects for business and national economic growth," Johnson said.