Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Growth & Jobs | COVID-19 pandemic: An opportunity to strengthen the micro sector landscape

Published:Tuesday | May 26, 2020 | 12:18 AM

Gillian Hyde, general manager, Jamaica National Small Business Loan (JNSBL), says the COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity for Jamaicans to include, high on the ­national agenda, plans to make it ­easier and cheaper for micro entrepreneurs to formalise their operations.

She said the crisis should be used to further strengthen the financial system with greater participation of micro-entrepreneurs.

“I believe it’s an important time for us to discuss how we further engage the micro sector, strengthening their operations through increased formalisation,” Hyde affirmed.

“I want to reiterate that micro-entrepreneurs are willing to do all it takes to ensure that they’re compliant with the necessary laws. But, we have to ensure that the systems that are in place are simplified and accessible to foster greater inclusion.”

Hyde added that the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with other issues such as climate change, continues to impact critical sectors, including the agricultural sector. “From our experience, natural disasters and other perils can have a devastating effect on micro landscape, and many struggle to return to the level they achieved prior to these events,” Hyde said.

Hyde was addressing the JN Circle ‘Catch Up’, a video series of conversations about how Jamaicans can come together to overcome various elements of the COVID-19 ­pandemic recently.

She added that the JNSBL would be further supporting the sector through collaborations with industry stakeholders to assist clients and other micro-entrepreneurs with planning and managing finances in this time of crisis.

Dr Damien King, economist and ­executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), said the pandemic will affect micro small and medium enterprises differently because they are not as capitalised as larger operations.

“Small businesses do not have that type of capitalisation and cushion, so the danger we face is not just an economic contraction, but a hollowing out of part of the economy that small businesses tend to populate a lot,” he stated. “By the time we come out of this, we will not only have a smaller economy, we’re going to have a different structure of an economy with these vacuum holes that a lot of these small businesses would occupy,” he said, while asking for leniency on the part of lenders.