By Edward Harris

   A Caribbean Association of SMEs is now in the making: Hurricane Ivan did some damage to Barbados but this did not stop small businesspersons of the region to get together in Barbados for a Regional Conference on Accelerating the Growth of SMEs – New Approaches & New Solutions. They came from as far as Suriname and Belize. The two-day conference – September 9-10, 2004 was hosted by the Barbados Small Business Association with support from major organizations and companies including the Caribbean Development Bank and Pro Invest – a programme of the ACP Group and the EU Commission for the promotion of investment. Grenada and Jamaica were not represented due the effects of Hurricane Ivan. Grenada suffered in catastrophic proportions.

   St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association was represented by President Patrick Joseph and Immediate Past President Edward Harris. The St. Lucia delegation arrived at Sir Grantley Adams International Airport on the first flight just minutes after the airport was reopened on Wednesday 8/9/04. They were determined to be a part of the history-making event at the conference where a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to facilitate the formation of a Caribbean Association of SMEs.

   Senator, Hon. Sandra Husbands, President of the Barbados Small Business Association, the only female President and her hard working team were given the responsibility to continue the work they began with the cooperation of the representatives from the other Associations to deliver and launch the Caribbean Association of SMEs before January 2005. The young and dynamic Senator, The Honourable Lynette Eastmond, Minister of  Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development in her presentations sent a clear message that the Government of Barbados was committed to the Small Business Sector to ensure that it does not only exist but succeeds.

   A very important presentation entitled “Small & Medium Enterprises: A Collaborative Approach for the Region” was made by Mr. Adrian Theodore, Trade Officer, Bermudez Biscuit Co. This and other presentations could be downloaded from One important outcome of the conference apart from the MOU to proceed to launch CASME is the fact that from hereon, the small business sector of the region will begin to exchange information on their individual associations and hopefully a list of minimum services offered to the membership across the region would be adopted.

   The results of the conference were very gratifying especially for Mr. Jonathan Adams, President & CEO of the Small Enterprising Business Association of Trinidad and Tobago who for several years, along with colleagues from Jamaica and Guyana sought to establish a Caribbean Association of Small Businesses. The stage is now set for serious work in the area of small business development at the local and regional levels. The Government of St. Lucia assistance to the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association is timely as SLISBA seeks to establish itself as a major player on the regional landscape.

   Business Associations in the countries of  the region response to CSME must include full participation in all private sector initiatives so that our individual and collective economies could be strengthened. Based on the discussions, CASME will make the difference with regard to how business is currently done by small businesses throughout the region.

   This step by the small business sector of the region establishes the fact that there is a dynamic private sector and with the right of nationals of the region to establishment in all member countries when the CSME is implemented, businesses with the ability to be duplicated can be cash cows. Small businesses will be in the vanguard of this development.

   Keep the Faith, things can only get better! God is in Charge!