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Mrs. Gillian Hyde, general manager, JN Small Business Loans is urging Jamaica to tap into the opportunities to assist the micro, small and medium enterprises sector that have presented themselves since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mrs. Hyde opined that mentoring and support for micro, small and medium enterprises, and bringing more of them into the formal economy were areas that should be given consideration if Jamaica is to emerge from the pandemic on a firmer economic footing.

“The pandemic represents a window of opportunity for larger businesses to ensure that MSMEs remain viable. MSMEs, although individually small in size, as a mass, they represent the mitochondria of the economy and employ the majority of the labour force,” she informed.

“Therefore, it’s important for larger businesses to ensure our MSMEs are sustained, as we are all part of one ecosystem and, therefore, large businesses thrive when our MSMEs thrive. There is a need for larger companies to understand that MSMEs bring value to the economy whether they are contract manufacturers for larger companies, competitors, or offer new services. Their role in the economic ecosystem is one that needs to be protected,” she added.

The JNSBL general manger noted that large companies could mentor smaller companies by helping them to refocus products and services that meet new areas of demand.

“They can also provide valuable advice on how to manage their accounts, marketing and distribution. With COVID-19 already affecting many, the input of larger players will help many weather this storm,” she added.

Mrs. Hyde pointed out that more must be done from a policy standpoint to bring entrepreneurs into the formal economy. She pointed to multiple reports from various agencies, such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Labour Organisation which have measured the informal economy as representing more than 40 per cent of the Jamaican economy.

“COVID-19 has brought home the reality that informality does not benefit our small entrepreneurs. Many taxi operators, barbers, cook shop owners etc., whose operations were not formally registered or did not possess the requisite licensing, were unable to take advantage of the assistance being offered by government and other entities,” she stated.

“Therefore, the time has come to fully explore how more persons can be brought into the formal economy. They need to be educated on the benefits of formality because it will enable them to access funding; protection in times of disasters or crises by providing access to insurance; and presents greater opportunities for them to take advantage of contract services all year round. Until this is done, the current situations exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic will remain with us and hamper our growth,” she added.

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