Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
For micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) 2013 looks even more challenging than 2012 when many struggled to keep their doors open.
The sector enters the new year with the long-promised MSME and entrepreneurship policy still some way off, as this has not yet been tabled in Parliament.
High energy cost, weak demand for their goods and service and limited access to financing also continue to bedevil the sector.
The MSMEs also struggle with weak technical/entrepreneurial capacity in what is a particularly difficult environment for doing business.
Some MSMEs will face age-old sector-specific problems, such as taxi and minibus drivers who daily have to deal with high and rising operation costs with no subsidy or adjustment to taxi fares to cover these costs.
Range of problems
Small contractors face onerous regulatory requirements that have led to a range of problems for them, including deregistration and business closure
Some craft traders and producers have been negatively impacted by the closure of the Fern Gully in St Ann, while others are facing difficulties due to limited tourist demand and poor market conditions.
According to Professor Rosalea Hamilton, head of the MSME Alliance, there needs to be a shift in the perspective of policymakers from a size-determined concept where MSMEs are seen mainly as important in addressing the unemployment problem and poverty alleviation - to a concept of 'MSME entrepreneurs'.
Hamilton argues that this will require a set of "big push initiatives".
These include "Improving data collection, monitoring, research, and analysis on MSMEs and entrepreneurial development so as to guide evidence-based policies and strategic entrepreneurial interventions".
Hamilton is also calling for special attention to be paid to strengthening the capacity of MSME entrepreneurs in the creative, copyright industries - such as entertainment, education, sports.
"Improving governance arrangements and strengthening the capacity of MSMEs to actively participate in the policymaking process," is also on the menu of items that Hamilton wants implemented.
High energy cost among factors that could force small businesses to close their doors this year