Early in 2022, the Government had announced that it was exploring ways to create more opportunities for small businesses, which is crucial, as persons with this type of business and those who want to start businesses often have neither the cash flow nor collateral.
To quote President Ali: “We have to have a discussion on the apportionment of that risk, and how we can minimise or remove the collateral requirement and take the contract at face value, and then work out a mechanism through which a contract at face value is used to support those business operations.”
The issue of cash flow for micro-enterprises has been a topic of interest over the years, not only in Guyana, but in other countries around the world, especially as it relates to women. Debates have centred around the challenges many women face in getting access to equal opportunities, and, in a general sense, programmes and policies that could be implemented to ensure their economic and social advancement.
In his Budget 2022 presentation, Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh said that over the past two years, Government, through the Small Business Bureau, has continued to support small business development through a suite of initiatives. Importantly, in 2023, $584.2 million was allocated to the Small Business Bureau and the Small Business Development Fund.
While there have not been specific statistics on how many women have had access to this support, it must be recognised that women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. According to the United Nations, investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth.
Here, in Guyana, women have made tremendous progress at every level of the society. This country deserves commendation for the advances it has made in ensuring that in addition to women being protected under the law, they are given the relevant opportunities for their personal and professional advancement.
However, there is still a far way to go before we can safely say that women have access to the resources and opportunities they need to fully develop themselves. For example, our single-parent mothers have, over the years, found it very difficult to make ends meet. Many of them have found themselves in a position where they work from month to month and there seems to be no end to the financial hardships they experience. For some, who would like to venture out into establishing their own small business, etc, the criteria set by banks and other lending institutions make it difficult to access the necessary loans. This is where the Small Business Bureau will have to diligently review its role in helping women. We agree that the Bureau, along with a few other institutions, gives grants and other forms of support, but those are on a limited scale.
Certainly, the economic and social advancement of all women, including those in hinterland and rural communities, should remain a priority. Focus must continue to be placed on providing jobs, access to skills training, access to financial resources, and protection from domestic and other forms of violence.
Women, over the years, have made tremendous progress, not only in terms of their own advancement, but by playing a key role in the development of their own communities, and by extension, allowing other women opportunities to develop themselves.
We believe that when women are allowed to develop their full potential, it is not only women who gain, but the entire society.
Local small businesses and more so women having access to financing for their businesses will indeed play an integral part of the development of Guyana.
To quote Minister Singh: “…small businesses are essential to ensure a diversified and resilient Guyana, as well as for the sustainability of livelihoods for thousands of households.”