Today, the Government of Belize launched the first ever National MSME Roadshow and the National MSME strategy. The initiative, which is the brainchild of the Office of the Prime Minister, is geared at providing support services to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The roadshow will be held across the country from August to November this year. Reporter Vejea Alvarez has the story.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Over 200 Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) will be benefiting from the government’s National MSME strategy and its accompanying National MSME Roadshow. MSMEs in Belize account for 70% of national employment and provide 50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Given their importance to the development of the nation the government has stepped in to provide various forms of support that will assist them in fostering growth, which will boost economic development, lessen unemployment and strengthen the country’s business sector.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: It is indeed a fact that MSMEs continue to face economic challenges such as COVID 19 as she had mentioned. Access to affordable financing, the rising cost of doing business, disruptions in the supply chain and increasing competition brought on by globalisation. To combat these challenges we must work together to provide the enabling environment so that MSMEs can innovate and so that they can pivot where necessary to meet the needs of an ever transitioning Belize. In essence they must undertake initiatives that build their competitiveness.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The project is being funded through a 15 million dollar loan from the inter-American Development Bank and is in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister, Narda Garcia explained that under the strategy, which was developed by Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) the participating MSMEs will be assisted in achieving five main objectives.
Narda Garcia, CEO, Office of the Prime Minister: supporting an enabling environment for MSME development. improving market access, and facilitating supply chain linkages for MSMEs, promoting buying locally to improve economic recovery, facilitating access to finance for the MSME sector and building the business and operational capacity of MSMEs. The roadshow will travel to each district and the tourism destinations, namely San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia to make available much needed support and resources. To cement government’s commitment to MSME’s growth and development
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: 50 percent of MSMEs are owned and operated by women, many of whom are a part of the Tourism Sector. Minister of Tourism, Anthony Mahler, spoke about the importance of ensuring Belizean-made products are utilized within the sector and marketed for global markets.
Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism: I agree that I’m tired of going to gift shops, I’m tired of going to hotels and seeing Hecho en Mexico, en Guatemala, imported from China when we have all the resources necessary to ensure that made in Belize can be found in the hotels, gift shops, restaurants and all over the country. I will say this, even though we are working tirelessly to provide support for MSMEs, there are still too many of these businesses that lack the fundamentals needed for growth and development. They lack access to affordable financing. Many lack technical expertise, they lack understanding of scale, understanding of making data driven decisions, and the importance of marketing and product development.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: And providing that support is a vital part of Plan Belize according to Prime Minister John Briceno. He says that the cabinet has agreed to award twenty percent of procurement tenders to MSME by March 2023.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: As a cabinet we have agreed that by March of 2025, we want at least 20% of all tendering contracts to be issued to small businesses. That is again using what we control to help small businesses in this country. Too long governments have been Belize City centric. Everything happens here and then it finishes. We want to go to the length and breadth of this country where we can meet small business people and entrepreneurs and tell them look at what we have here, look at what we can do, look at how we can help you, look at how we can make you be successful. How joining together as a big community, that you can have more access to financing, more access to markets, local and international.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Prime Minister Briceno also noted the significance of working with entrepreneurs who may not have been successful in the past and are not able to access funding from traditional lending institutions.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: They can come now within a formal structure through Beltraide and to go there and say this is my new project, and this is how I believe I will succeed. Then Beltraide can help them to maybe even strengthen whatever project that they may have in mind or product that they may have in mind, and through the US 15 million dollar loan that we’re doing through the IDB. That money will be able to give access to people who have failed before.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The National MSME Strategy will be implemented within the next three years and will focus on assisting MSMEs as they navigate the trying times of the covid-19 pandemic and build their competitiveness to access new global markets. Vejea Alvarez, Love News.