BUSINESSMAN and politician Ricardo Phillip believes the covid19 pandemic has exposed the challenges confronting small entrepreneurs in Tobago. And he has done something about it.
Phillip, owner of Dynamic Advertising Agency, Lowlands, established the Tobago Micro, Small and Medium Business Association about two weeks ago.
He is hoping the organisation will elevate the profile of the island’s small businessmen and create avenues through which such enterprises can grow and thrive.
“This covid19 experience has highlighted the challenges and lack of understanding of the direction in which small businesses in Tobago are supposed to go in particular. And we need to fix that,” he told Newsday.
Phillip, who unsuccessfully contested the Tobago West seat in the August 10 general election, said he decided to establish and register the association to create collaboration among small businesses. He said a part of its function will be to review the policies, within and outside of the Tobago House of Assembly, that are in place to assist small businessmen.
He claimed there is no available data highlighting the contribution of small business to Tobago’s economy. Describing the association as non-political, Phillip claimed the response has been overwhelming. “The membership drive is ongoing and we are looking to form an executive.”
Phillip believes small businesses have never truly received their just due.
“We, in this country, particularly in Tobago, have not recognised the contribution that small business makes to the economy, to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), employment, innovation and the sustainability of the economy.
“What we have in Tobago is a struggle for small business that’s individual, struggling to make ends meet, struggling to create opportunities.”
Phillips further believes the Government has “missed the mark” in tailoring some of its initiatives and policies to the needs of small businesses.
“So, small businesses must now come together and commit themselves to structure and form by way of creating opportunities and not in just accessing Government grants and funding but also in the private sector.”
Noting the United Nations has designated June 27 as an international day for micro, small and medium businesses, Phillip said Tobago entrepreneurs must also collaborate with their counterparts all over the world to keep abreast of the technologies, programmes and training.
“The recognition of small business as a major contributor to the economy must be recognised by a Government and treated in that way.”
He added: “We have to declare what our intentions are, our challenges, what we are lacking, what we need, and assist the Government in developing the right type of policies that would allow for the timely access to grants.” Phillip fears that without some kind of collaborative effort to treat with its challenges, small business will never survive covid19.