by Bernard Hamilton
Chair, Centre for Enterprise Development
The Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) amidst the euphoria and celebration that accompany the Christmas Season has always taken time-out at this time of the year for sober reflection on the past year’s work and to extract the lessons and experiences that will guide the organization into the new financial year.
During the year the world has witnessed a gradual return to some sense of pre-COVID normalcy as several countries have lifted their lockdown mandates and reopened their economies for business. Unfortunately, this period of recovery has been stymied by the outbreak of war in Europe between Russia and Ukraine further fuelling global inflation with its knock-on effect of skyrocketing food prices and shortages.
The economic shocks resulting from these global events have negatively impacted our small open and vulnerable economy with its heavy reliance on imported goods and services. In this context our small businesses find themselves struggling to maintain sustainable profit margins due to the increased cost of doing business and the slowing of demand resulting from an erosion of real income.
Notwithstanding the gloomy forecast and uncertainties on the horizons, our small business sector continues to show unflinching resilience and increasing resolve to the challenges. The recent display of our Vincentian talent and creativity displayed at “Vincy Expo 22” held last October, certainly gave us a glimpse of the enormous possibilities and productive capabilities that exist in our Country.
The challenge now for our small businesses is to transfer this type of energy and resourcefulness into production on a scale that is globally competitive. To become export ready and competitive, our businesses will have to commit themselves to the pooling of their resources in order to achieve real economies of scale, a call that has repeatedly been made over the years and needs to be heeded with a sense of urgency.
During the year, the CED continued its efforts to promote the institutional strengthening of the organization and develop its capacity to better serve its clients. Our collaboration with the Taiwan Technical Mission continues to develop and this year some 100 female entrepreneurs received direct financial and technical assistance under the Women’s Empowerment Project funded by the Republic of China (Taiwan).
The CED itself has been the recipient of assistance from the Taiwanese, who assisted the organization in the relocation of our offices to a more ergonomically friendly work environment at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cooperative League Centre at Lower Kingstown Park. We wish to publicly thank the Embassy, and in particular Ambassador Peter Sha Li Lan for his support and commitment to the development of the micro and small business sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
This year the organization bade farewell to its long-standing general manager, Mr. Felix Lewis, who has been at the helm of the institution since it was established some 20 years ago. We thank Mr. Lewis for his years of dedicated service to the institution and wish him a happy retirement.
The New Year that approaches will certainly bring not only new challenges, but also fresh hope and opportunities for the CED and the micro and small business community that it serves. Our business operators will have to adapt themselves to the rapidly changing dynamics of a new post-COVID world order. It is our hope that the long-awaited dream of the formation of an active small business organization will become a reality in the new year.
This is a most urgent imperative if the sector is to successfully dodge the perilous headwinds approaching and become more competitive. The CED remains committed to fulfilling its mandate in providing developmental assistance to the small business sector in its effort to promote further economic growth and development.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, Management and staff of CED I wish all our stakeholders and Vincentians generally a Merry Christmas and a bright and productive New Year.