The engine of growth needs fuel!

Money needs to be channeled in areas to salvage entrepreneurs. Money is no problem but the problem is getting the money to be channelled in the area most needed - Refinancing Businesses.

Over the past few weeks many people have been saying to me that there is a lot of money in the banking system but there is not many takers due to the fact that most persons who would have been considered approved clients are themselves heavily in debt and in many instances having difficulty in meeting their financial obligations.

My own take on the money situation is that a few proposals have reached my desk where an International Brokerage Company has appointed me as one of their agent to offer funding from US$5 million to US$300 million and only this week I was visited by a Broker who is offering Mortgage to non-nationals who seek to acquire property in St. Lucia at 4.82% interest per annum. While money seems not only to be available locally, there seems to be an abundantly cheap supply of money internationally.

Another offer reached my desk in the area of building systems for all types of properties, domestic, commercial and industrial with the company offering special funding arrangements.

Only a few months ago local entrepreneurs were sensitized to several funding options through a forum organized by the NDC. Since then a micro lending organization has been established, specifically targeting the small business sector with loans from EC$1,000.00 to EC$100,000.00.

While there is every evidence that there is the availability of money, I am eagerly awaiting the introduction of a financial arrangement that will seek to consolidate and refinance debts and give business persons who in many instances if not already lost their positive credit rating are on the verge of loosing their credit worthy status. We must salvage this group of value producers who have been caught in downward draught just about when they were gaining altitude.

Unlike developed countries, the government of developing countries seem reluctant to bail out their entrepreneurial class in times like these. However, like other sectors which have been bailed out from time to time, the business sector in many of the OECS countries needs to be rescued. The first concern must be to give to business people the opportunity to be refinanced and most of all be given an opportunity to move if necessary into other areas of business, given the financial support that would create for them a viable enterprise that will take care of their financial commitment - both past and current.

What do we do with our business sector? Moving away from our base and seeking to lend to new persons who enter into the business sector is not the answer. What is needed is to find an approach that will embrace the established and the emerging business class. I have said before and continue to believe that we are making a terrible mistake to turn our backs all together on the failures within the business sector.

Once again, we see the opposite in the developed world where business persons walk away from business failures to be supported again by financial institutions and become big successes. It appears to me that we are too hard on our people.

Something, somehow must be done to arrest the situation, salvage our value producers and refuel the engine of growth. There are many business persons who have the ability and the asset base to move forward but the banks have long memory which is not necessarily sympathetic to business persons experiencing difficulties in their operations.

The threat of the USA going to war with Iraq does not help our business sector, much more serious will be the effects if this becomes reality. It is the concern of most business persons who understand how the US economy works, that is very possible that the time has come for another war. The current stock pile of arms and ammunition must be utilised to make room for new ones. The rhetoric coming out of Washington seems to suggest that it is not if the US will attack Iraq but when? God help us! We must pray steadfastly, yes -without ceasing but it is not the might of man, it must boil down to the will of God.

While we wait on the higher power, we must do what is expected of us. I appeal to business persons not to yield to the temptation to stand on the side line but get into battle for the survival of our businesses and the future of ourselves and families.

In the meantime, it is for those of us who subscribe to the principles of the Bible to pray the Jabez Prayer found in 1 Chronicles, Chapter 4, Verse 10.

Keep the Faith! God is in charge.

Saturday 7 September 2002