The National Insurance Corporation Makes Its Presence Felt

The time has come when certain influential organisations in this country must step out and make their presence felt within the community where they exists. NIC has stepped out to influence the generation of wealth and the provision of resources for the poor.
It began with NIC involvement in the launch of the Productive Sector Equity Fund on July 31st, 2002 and on the following day August 1st, 2002 with the launch of the National Community Foundation.
It is the general feeling that these steps are in the right direction. With regard to the Productive Sector Equity Fund, the currently available EC$15,000,000.00 should at least be extended to a minimum of fifty companies. The involvement of the funds is limited to 40% of the capital or a maximum of EC$750,000.00 contribution to the capital Structure. This is a reasonable start but it was agreed that there is need for much more funding.
In the meantime, I took the opportunity to make a plea to the audience that given the existing economic environment, many entrepreneurs are having difficulty in meeting their obligations and may go under. I therefore proposed that these persons should not be left behind but be encouraged and assisted to return to a position where they can continue to make a contribution to the development of the Private Sector.
Those Entrepreneurs who have failed can be our greatest asset only if for the experiences learned from such failures.
It is public knowledge that the memory of Banks are long and past bad loan repayments come back to haunt Entrepreneurs. However, while this may be so there must also be consideration in regard to the circumstances under which delinquencies occur. Unlike the several provisions to take care of Entrepreneurs due to the lack of performance within their companies such as Chapter 11 in the USA, what do we have in the Caribbean, except for shame and disgrace with no hope of a return. This is the reason why so many Caribbean Entrepreneurs stay with projects which they should abandon but rather stay with them and loose all. In most cases when a Caribbean businessperson goes broke, he is broke indeed.
We must enact more humane laws in relation to risk oriented businesses if we are to preserve the existence of our Entrepreneurial class. There is no simple solution to the problems that confront the Private Sector, especially the Small Business Sector. The success of the Equity Fund will depend on a new attitude of Entrepreneurs who until now rather be a big fish in a small pond and cannot breathe rather than be a small fish in a big pond where there's space for sustainable growth and no possibility of being stifled.
I believe the time has come for the establishment of an Investment Club which will be responsible for developing this new culture so badly needed and for counselling established Entrepreneurs who are currently traumatized due to the present state of their investment. Those who are caught in the dilemma of being unable to meet their Bank Loan commitment - what is their future? No one has addressed a moratorium, no one has answered the question if the business is now closed and the borrower is without a job - what is the position? These are issues that we cannot push under the carpet or have we predetermined the fate of such persons? We need to deal with this state of affairs the way we deal with national disasters - we must be armed with answers to deal with the present situation.
Too often we look at the end before considering the means. The current crop of experienced entrepreneurs must be embraced and solutions found to bring those who will confirm to theraphy back into the productive force. There are many who have both the asset base and the expertise to move on to another project but not given the encouragement because they are considered failures.
The Productive Sector Equity Fund must be innovative and as its major thrust seek to invest in businesses that are currently cash starved but have real potentials for success. I call on the Fund Administrators to provide a list of investments they are willing to enter into equity relation and only seek to undertake business plans for viable projects after a series of interviews with the project proposer.
Now about Poverty. We now have an institution that will source and channel funds to agencies that provide for the poor. The NIC should be complimented. I seek to suggest to the NIC to go a step further to ensure that wherever possible there must be self generating income contribution by the recipients. I am alluding to an example such as blind persons making baskets and mats. For too many people - poverty is a state of the mind and, or outright laziness. We must not seek to encourage a community of beggars.
There's a handful of real leaders in our country and I take my hat off to two such persons who are breaking out of the old mould and can be considered as movers and shakers of this new era. They need our support, let us give it to them. Congratulations to Miss Emma Hippolyte and Mr. Marius St. Rose.
Keep the Faith. God is in Charge!
August 9, 2002