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EDITORIAL- No surprise in response to YEP

Published:Friday | March 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

WE ARE disappointed, but not overly surprised, by the reported snail's paced take-up of loans under the Government's Young Entrepreneurs Programme (YEP).

Most of $200 million the administration earmarked for the project a year ago remains in the kitty. Few of the graduates who are eligible for loans have applied.

The reason, we believe, is twofold. First, as Michael Stern, the junior minister for industry and commerce and investment, agreed there is need for for better promotion of the scheme. Far too many potential beneficiaries do not know of its existence.

We, however, feel that the larger reason is closer to what was implied by Mr Stern in his comment to this newspaper, which was reported on Tuesday.

The administration, Mr Stern said, was determined to develop an entrepreneurial culture in Jamaica, which suggests that such a culture is not strong here. That does not fully capture the situation.

No accountability

In fact, we believe that the entrepreneurial spirit is strong in Jamaica. People are willing to try things to make money, as is reflected in the burgeoning informal economy.

And that, substantially, is the point. Our business processes have long been bred in, and have thrived on, informality: street-side selling, unregistered taxis, tax dodging, etc.

Very few of us want to be in organised, structured arrangements that bring us in contact with what is held to be a ponderous bureaucracy that is full of hubris and corrupt to boot. Additionally, we do not want to be held accountable.

It is, in part, this negative sense of business, its abhorrence of formality and a view that the 'system' adds little or no value, that contributes to the slow take-up of YEP.

Perchance we are correct, fixing the problem will demand more than merely promoting the scheme and keeping the cash in place. Although we believe that it is important that these should happen.

Teaching youths ethical values

But there are also other things to be done, not least being building a component on entrepre-neurship, including ethical values in the conduct of business, in the school curriculum. This should happen at the primary and secondary levels.

The point is that young people should be aware that profit is the purpose of enterprise and that it is good to pursue profit aggressively. But they should learn, too, of the ethical and social responsibilities upon which a decent and democratic country should pursue business.

The Government, too, has a responsibility to conduct its own business in such a fashion as to lessen, and ultimately remove the unacceptable constraints to formal entrepreneurship. For instance, registering a company or paying your taxes ought not to be so difficult and time-consuming that the business persons assume it makes better sense to avoid the formal system altogether or to bribe someone in order to evade the angst.

The point is, there is a cost to public-sector inefficiency and corruption, including the fact that it stifles entrepreneurship and breeds informality. We believe that some of that is evident in the failure of YEP.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.