REMARKS BY JUNIOR MINISTER FOR TRADE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE SHEREEN FLAX-CHARLES
ON THE LAUNCH OF SMALL BUSINESS ECONOMIC RESPONSE
21ST JULY, 2020
A pleasant good morning to everyone.
It gives me great pleasure on behalf of Premier Honourable Andrew A. Fahie to bring remarks on this very important occasion as we continue as a Government to move the Territory forward in our economic response to various sectors of the economy of the Virgin Islands.
The people of this Territory would recall that your Government presented our $62.9 million Phase Two COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, which contained several programmes to help support families and small businesses during these trying times.
Your Government recognises that COVID-19 has caused – and continues to cause - significant economic impacts on workers and on businesses.
That is why we put forward those initiatives to help our people to get through this pandemic.
One of the initiatives is the Small Business Sector Grant Relief Programme that was established for the purpose of assisting Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in meeting their operational expenditure, while stimulating economic activity by facilitating the circulation of money within the Territory.
On 17th June, 2020, Cabinet approved the Small Business Sector Grant Programme in the amount of six million, five hundred thousand dollars ($6,500,000.00), which is funded through a grant from the BVI Social Security Board.
We thank the Chairman, director and team BVI Social Security Board for making these funds available as we, as a Government and Territory, continue to work diligently towards providing social and economic relief, and stimulating economic activity.
Let me say here that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) comprise over 90 percent (about 3,600 businesses) of all businesses operating in the Territory.
From the various administrative records and survey results, it has become evident within the past few months, with extended periods of low or no revenue due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses became more vulnerable to prolonged economic shocks.
In response, the Government of the Virgin Islands included as part of its Economic Response Plan (Phase II) released on 28th May, 2020, funds to assist small businesses to help curb the impact.
These funds were allocated to assist businesses in meeting their operational expenditure, while stimulating economic activity by facilitating the circulation of money within the Territory.
To facilitate the design and implementation of the programme, Cabinet also decided that a Committee be established consisting of representatives from the Premier’s Office serving as Chair, the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs serving as members. This committee has been working to ensure the effective administration and management of the application process for the approval and disbursement of the grants.
The first task of the committee was to develop the policy guidelines, along with developing the appropriate application mechanism through which the grant programme will be administered and effectively managed.
With the policy guidelines in pace to ensure transparency and accountability, we are encouraging those businesses that may qualify to complete the online application form available on the Government’s Website and submit electronically.
Provisions will also be made through the Department of Trade Investment Promotion & Consumer Affairs to assist applicants who may have difficulty completing an electronic application form or do not have access to a computer or the Internet.
The Committee will also be responsible for monitoring and evaluating of the programme to ensure its success by collecting information through participant surveys, focus group discussions and interviews carried out periodically during and after the implementation period.
It is generally accepted that the foundation for success of any business includes the existence of a business plan and strategy that serves as a guide to business decisions and an operating and reporting infrastructure that allows a business to measure the successful implementation of its plans and programmes; and to provide a basis for making adjustments where necessary.
To ensure that MSME are given the greatest chance of success, information will be gathered as part of the application process to determine the extent to which applicants have in place the fundamental business tools (business plans, financial and reporting infrastructure etc., that are necessary for business success and for the development of entrepreneurial skills.
For those applicants who do not have the necessary business tools in place, provision will be made for applicants to attend a certificate training programme, aimed at sensitising applicants to the importance of these tools and providing general guidance, in the first instance, for their implementation as well as to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills.
Our Government recognises MSME’s are a vital component to the sustainability of the Virgin Islands’ economy and as such, will continue to work towards ensuring that we create an enabling atmosphere in which they can develop, grow and thrive.
I also want to express gratitude to the Premier for his leadership and opportunity for me to be here today. I would also like to thank the Premier’s Office the Department of Trade, the Department of Information Technology, as well as GIS; and the Ministry of Finance. And I want to express gratitude, most importantly to the business community for their patience, resilience and innovation, this is critical for the diversifying the economy if we are to survive and thrive through this challenging time remember its business unusual during this time and in the future.
Thank you, very much