What can be done to Achieve Real Results for the Private Sector - I am Concerned?

In recent years, I participated in various Meetings, Conferences, Round Tables, Seminars, Summits, etc, etc at home and overseas, all intended to bring together people dedicated to a specific cause – improving the terms of engagement between the public and private sectors as the engine of growth now needs to be upgraded from a steam engine to bullet engine as we approach the deadline for the implementation of Trade Liberalisation and Globalisation.when we are expected to compete with the world. We are being assisted by regional and international organisations and donor agencies in the process. However, the question comes back to me again and again, are we making real progress?

Dialogue is important as we seek to understand the new demands that are placed upon us. Meetings are vital. Are these meetings delivering? Is there enough engagement among the players? I feel the private sector player have to do more, o get more involved. Enough Entrepreneurs are not devoting the time necessary to the trade issues that are currently being negotiated. There must be a change of attitude. The meetings will have to deliver more and results must be seen. The challenge of any good meeting is to keep the topic alive and receive feed back into a central point where ideas that have been developed prior to, during the meetings, and thereafter can be channeled. We are all well aware of the fact that many times, the agendas are over loaded and time is always an issue, many times leaving out important aspects of the discussions. The race for time is even greater when it is a one day meeting.

Every meeting I attended in recent years where I feel the need for continuing dialogue, I offered to start a MSN Group. I have done it twice so far without success due to a lack of sustained interest. We cannot be talking about the dominant role of the internet in communication and marketing and not affectively utilize the technology. Are we just a bunch of talkers, who are prepared only to talk and not take action?

After the meeting - what? Most of us return to our homes and do nothing, and wait for the next meeting. In future, I feel sponsors must begin to ask for tangible results. What effect did the conference have beyond the actual get together? Where is the follow action?

I further believe that if meetings are to really serve their purposes, there must be a greater pre meeting sensitization and involvement. There should be country papers and independent contribution by attendees in one form or another. Maybe another point to be considered is pre qualification of participants.

All meetings must be used as a means to forge relationships. There are simple things that could be done to improve the pre and post conference results in many instances. There is much more to be expected. It is time for us to become serious about our participation in meetings. I continue to make the case for small businesses and industries generally - SMEs and SMIs. A few months ago or more specifically during 2000 and 2002, I was the sole voice crying in the wilderness about finance – the need for a special window to reverse the pressure on businesses that are likely to go bankrupt if not being assisted. Everyone else was silent as if only one person was aware of the problem. In the end, the wall came tumbling down. Small, Medium and Large businesses were all affected.

The other issue was the turning of our backs on those who have failed in business, sometimes through no fault of theirs but due to market changes and pressure from competition. The most cruel aspect is when such businesses have the ability to move into other areas but the banks just not interested – just keeping the security to accommodate the interest shocks, leading the borrowers into more debt and subsequent insolvency. Nothing is being done in this area. My call for a similar type of chapter eleven as is applied in the USA has fallen on deaf ears. There must be a way out to prevent the rampant exploitation of poor people which takes place in many instances. An interesting development is the call by Bankers to secure loans not only on the strength of the company’s assets but to go beyond the company and demand in many cases personal guarantee from the directors. In such cases, the protection which was given to personal assets by the existence of a limited liability company no longer applies. Whether it is a sole trader or limited liability company given the existing scenario of personal guarantee, it doesn’t matter. God help us!

The Private Sector has a lot of catching up to do to ensure that systems are put in place to benefit the sector and offer a better deal for all. It is against this realization that when the players get together to look at advancing the economic productive sector – the private sector, it is serious business. If we are to advance the process, using the private sector as the engine of growth, then when we come together at the various meetings, there must be a mechanism to monitor results. We continue to talk about the implications of the new trade regimes, but who is moving the process forward to ensure that we can become competitive? Show me the instruments that are put in place to accelerate the process. E-Commerce is yet to be properly implemented when we can handle our own payment transactions, using credit cards. At the moment, we have to use third party for processing credit card payment at a high premium.

You can have all the ideas in the world and no money, you will have to stand back and echo the well known line, “it should have been me” while someone else walks away with your dream. It is time for an INNOVATION Fund to be put in place to provide the much needed risk capital for new creative businesses.

There must be a commitment at all levels, Government, Agencies and the Private Sector to get more from what we do when we come together at various meetings. Let us use technology at the heart of our endeavours. Every website promoting the activities of Government, Agencies and Associations should have a discussion stream where individuals can go online promote their ideas, ask questions, get answers for themselves and others, and generally keep entrepreneurial minds engaged. The email Contact Us link will just not work. It must be open to all to make comments, ask questions and get feed back. We are now using the internet for almost every aspect of existence, why can’t we use it for the improvement of our lives by sharing our knowledge in a caring manner.

In conclusion, I wish to refer my readers to a website that is promoting the World Summit of Indigenous Entrepreneurs scheduled for August 18-20, 2003 in Toronto, Canada. A good example for those who plan meetings to follow. Get out the information in advance, get the flow of information going, begin to build relationships prior to the meetings, get them established at the meetings and sustain them beyond the meetings. Is this asking too much? The meeting held in Jamaica, 7-9/7/03 presented a unique opportunity to deal with the issues of the SMEs as a five year strategic plan was discussed but where do we go from there? Do we await the next meeting a year from now? The answer is clearly no!

Keep the Faith!
Get on board with the Jabez Prayer: 1 Chronicles, Chapter 4, Verse 10