By Dennie Quill, Columnist
Starting a business is a dream that many people share but few ever realise. Many dreams of business ownership have been short-lived, and the evidence is clear in several villages and towns across the breadth and length of Jamaica.
For example, the corner shop, which was once the heartbeat of many communities, is now shuttered, and those which remain open are barely limping along. The environment is generally run down, exhibiting signs of rot and decay.
So is it that people have become too lazy? Is it that individuals just can't be bothered to deal with the challenges? Many persons who are currently unemployed were earning a livelihood in some of these businesses - such as farms, shops, hardware stores and small factories. It is said that small businesses are what drive an economy.
On one of my country visits this past weekend, I chatted with some villagers in a St Elizabeth community who explained that they have grown weary of facing down one problem after another in their struggle to earn a livelihood.
"You don't see that the end is near?" one elderly vendor offered. He suggested that in five decades he has never seen harder times.
Lottery scam alternative
Some are talking about the lottery scam as an alternative, as they say the input is minimal and the rewards are great. God forbid that hard-working farmers and small businessmen should lose hope.
Praedial larceny and crime continue to be among the greatest challenges all across the country. From livestock to farming equipment, produce and motor vehicles, the thieves continue to reap where they have not sown. According to the villagers, the predators are now so well armed that community people are cowering in fear, and, having weighed the risks, have decided not to confront the thieves.
And there is always the problem of financing for would-be business owners, whether large or small. After the obligatory search among family and friends, it is to the commercial market that the business person must turn. The daunting prospect of high interest rates is another turn-off because many bitter experiences of escalation turmoil have been recorded in our recent history. This is why many are afraid to access high-interest loans in the marketplace.
For those who are attempting to do business in the city, location is one of the most important considerations after funding. The business has to be sited in an area where customers or clients will feel comfortable and safe from marauding criminals. Consideration also has to be given to the safety of employees.
Any business in Jamaica today will confirm that security costs are now a major budget item, for they have to hire security personnel and at times have to transport workers to ensure their safety. The same is true of the homeowner who must also be equipped with electronic security and/or armed guards. The business owner will have to pay twice for his security, at the workplace and again at home.
Even though Jamaicans are known to be unrelenting optimists, the sad truth is that there are many business people in this country who are now suffering from fatigue. They feel no urge to invest further in their business because they have little hope of survival.
Throughout the country, the municipal authorities need to urgently focus on revitalising the towns and communities so that investors can see these as areas where their businesses will survive and thrive. We badly need a dose of hope if the small-business sector is expected to play its part in building the vibrant economy that has eluded us each decade.
Dennie Quill is a veteran media practitioner. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.