Remarks by
Jean Ricot Dormeus, OAS Representative
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Training Workshop

May 20, 2019

Honorable Minister of Business Hemraj Rajkumar,
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Business Rajdai Jagarnauth,
Colleague Renee Pemco,
Facilitator Cliff Paredes,
Directors and advisors participating in this workshop,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to launch with you today this promising Small Business Development Center training workshop. We have gathered here to take a baby step but a leap of vision in fostering in Guyana a culture of comprehensive support for improvement in entrepreneurship, job creation and wealth generation. We have come here to say that together we can help modernize micro, small and medium enterprises, we can create an environment conducive to exponential growth in this sector, and we can make our economy more competitive.

The Organization of American States, through its Department of Economic Development of the Secretariat for Integral Development, offers a cooperation springboard extending the US SBDC model to the rest of the Americas. Thus the OAS promotes and sustains a business support network that nurtures entrepreneurial spirit across the hemisphere. The OAS is pleased to partner with the US Government and the University of Texas at San Antonio in this endeavor.

Let me congratulate and thank the Government and the people of Guyana for embracing this initiative. In particular, I would like to recognize Minister Hemraj Rajkumar for his enthusiastic support for this program. A few weeks ago, an OAS delegation helped inaugurate the Minister’s term by being the first to meet with him on his first day in office. We discussed the SBDC program and the Minister’s response was encouraging and overwhelming. Thank you Minister Rajkumar.

Likewise, PS Jagarnauth has been instrumental in managing the SBDC establishment process and in coordinating with different stakeholders, especially Dr. Porter of the Small Business Bureau who has offered to take charge of the initiative.

The Directors and Advisors participating in this workshop, you are privileged to benefit from the knowledge and experience of Renee Penco and Cliff Paredes. Renee is one the OAS most brilliant experts and Cliff is an acclaimed veteran of the University of Texas at San Antonio who has conducted over 55 SBDC Counselor and Director Certification Training Programs that transfer the SBDC model to over 10,000 professionals from the government, higher education and private sectors throughout the Americas.

I am so impressed with the SBDC model and the training workshop program that I plan to participate fully and receive every ounce of knowledge that will be shared.

As you may know, SBDCs help entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership. SBDCs help existing businesses remain competitive in a complex, ever-changing global marketplace. SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services. These services include assistance in business plan development, manufacturing, financing, exporting and importing, disaster recovery, procurement and contracting, supply chain management, and market research.

The OAS started the SBDC program in 2012. Five Caribbean countries – Belize, Dominica, Barbados, St Lucia, and Jamaica have adapted the U.S. SBDC model to their ecosystem. In 2015, the organization initiated Phase two of the project to build on the first phase. Three additional countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas joined in the adaptation of the U.S. SBDC model.

Consolidation activities in the first five beneficiary countries included the development of the legal and regulatory framework. This framework underpins the model. It also strengthens the technical capacity of the SBDCs to assist clients in accessing financing as well as local and regional value chains. The consolidation has nurtured the development of successful SBDC networks throughout the Caribbean.

Phase II also focused on assisting the newly established SBDC country administrators in developing the administrative oversight and performance measurements. Better monitoring promotes the generation of economic impact among MSME clients for sustainable development programs broadly supported by all stakeholders.

Key to the process and arguably the unifying thread in the articulation of the network model is the use of the Neo Serra software. Neo Serra helps monitor center and client performance and the measurement of results. In 2017 Neo Serra productivity indicators show that the thirteen established SBDCs in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Saint Lucia served a total of 6,199 clients providing 9,178 registered advisory hours. Economic impact indicators also reveal that 285 businesses were started, 192 jobs created and a total of USD 7,793,063.00 was accessed.

A challenge that has emerged concerns the availability of predictable government funding for the nascent SBDCs. In most cases, there is clearly a need for significant increase in human, financial and technical resources within the SBDCs in order to accelerate MSME sector growth and development.

With the addition of one new country, Guyana, Phase III of the Caribbean SBDC project will continue to focus on the consolidation of the model in the beneficiary countries. Thus we will ensure the integrity and sustainability of the established national and regional SBDC networks.

Imagine the impact successful SBDCs will have in Guyana’s economic transformation, in conjunction with the emergence of the oil sector. Imagine that comprehensive support for MSMEs helps modernize and establish standards for vendor stalls at Stabroek Market, Bourda Market, and Regent Street. Imagine that the dray carts and donkey carts will attract visitors to museums because their operators have received the training and support necessary to modernize their transportation service businesses. Imagine agro-processors in Waini, Hosororo, Tapakuma, Siriki Sands, Lichfield or Kuru Kuru empowered to export with confidence and compete on the international market.

The spontaneity and enthusiasm I have witnessed about the SBDC program augurs well in Guyana. I trust that the stakeholders will dedicate human capital, time, energy and financial resources to the success and sustainability of this initiative for a well-diversified and well-oiled economy.

I would like to close with a quote by Steve Jobs “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” The OAS and its partners believe in the people of the Americas. Let’s give them knowledge, network and tools, they will do wonderful things.

Thank you and God bless you!

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