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Prime Minister John Briceño: ‘MSMEs are economic engines fueling diversification, job creation, and growth’

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Posted: Friday, August 5, 2022. 7:18 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Office of the Prime Minister

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: “MSMEs are economic engines fueling diversification, job creation and growth,” said Prime Minister John Briceño at the launching of the MSME Roadshow and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Strategy and Roadmap for Belize at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City on Friday.

“Our entrepreneurial spirit is vibrant, and my Administration is committed to support the continued development of MSMEs in Belize.”

The Prime Minister said the MSME strategy and roadmap are significant contributions to the efforts that we have undertaken to strengthen the MSME ecosystem in Belize.

He said the overall goal of a sustained growth and prosperity for all Belizeans requires an inclusive ecosystem strategy built on partnerships.

“This is why we are having this road show, to include and involve as many partners as possible from all across Belize,” said the Prime Minister.

The first-of-its-kind, National MSME Roadshow was launched today by the Economic Development Council (EDC), through its technical secretariat, the Public-Private Desk in the Office of the Prime Minister together with BELTRAIDE and the Investment Policy and Compliance Unit, with the support of strategic partners, including UNDP and the Mayors Association of Belize.

The roadshow which seeks to provide developmental support services to the MSME sector while raising public awareness of Belizean goods and services will go through Corozal, Orange Walk in August, Belize City, Punta Gorda, Caye Caulker, and Belmopan in September, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, Dangriga, Placencia, and San Pedro in October, and will close in November in Belize City.

“We want Belizeans buying locally produced goods and services,” said the PM.

“MSME’s contributions to economic development are crucial because it facilitates job creation, strengthens communities, and increases contributions to GDP.”

The Prime Minister said that at present MSMEs are responsible for approximately 70 percent of our national employment and close to 50 percent of the country’s GDP. However, he emphasized that the MSMEs continue facing economic challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, access to affordable financing, the rising costs of doing business, disruptions in the supply chain, and increased competition brought on by globalization.

“To combat these challenges, we must work together to provide the enabling environment, so that MSMEs can innovate and so that they can pivot where necessary to meet the needs of an ever-transitioning Belize,” he said.

The Prime Minister thanked Belize’s local, regional, and international partners who continue supporting the growth of MSMEs, by facilitating projects and programs that provide capacity building and economic empowerment of women, youth, and other vulnerable groups.

“During the last two years this collaboration has helped my administration to transform itself into an effective, forward-looking, fiscally disciplined, and economically sober government,” he said.

“It has also allowed us to demonstrate that real transformation occurs when we promote national development together.”

The Prime Minister said that to keep the country’s economy growing, the MSMEs need to undertake initiatives that build their competitiveness.

Prime Minister Briceño made a call on Belizeans “to support our Belizean businesses because this is at the heart of Plan Belize”.

He said the Government is working on revising legislation to enhance MSMEs fiscally and operationally.

He said that in 2012, BELTRAIDE developed an MSME Strategy and Policy for Belize with support from the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) and that now they are realigning the Strategy and Policy to match the times and the present challenges MSMEs face.

He went on to say that strengthening the MSMEs puts Belize in a better economic situation given the disruptive nature of things that force us to change and adapt.

He pointed at the tourism industry, Belize’s mainstay, which was severely challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic reiterating that the MSMEs are a way to remain competitive.

“What we did when we came into office was focus efforts on expanding our breadbasket into non-traditional industries to create a more diversified economy,” he said.

“We encouraged investments in manufacturing, agribusiness, business process outsourcing, and the creative industry to promote and strengthen Belizean MSME businesses’ competitiveness.”

The Prime Minister said the development of the MSMEs strategy is expected to benefit from programs to improve competitiveness, access to larger markets, access to affordable microfinance, cultivate innovation, and build technical, managerial, and requisite skills.

“To upscale the impact and sustainability of our MSMEs, we have secured a loan of US$15 million, from the Inter-American Development Bank for production-oriented financing through environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient systems,” said the Prime Minister.

Through this project, Government will provide direct support to over 200 businesses in the agriculture, fisheries, and tourism sectors. This in turn will help protect jobs and promote the recovery of MSMEs.

One way to secure that is Cabinet’s approval last Tuesday of a policy that will see 20% of all government supplies contracts awarded to MSMEs by March 2025.

“Additionally, BELTRAIDE, through the Development Finance Corporation, will be launching the Belize Enterprise Revolving Fund: with a focus on diversifying the national economy of Belize, by strengthening and improving the competitiveness of MSMEs,” he said.

“Under this program, maturing businesses, export-ready and near-ready-export MSMEs, with export potential, will receive technical assistance, including capacity building, and financing through loans and grants.”

The Prime Minister closed by saying that these crucial steps have the objective of ensuring the sustainability of Belize’s MSMEs.

“We are ushering in a new chapter in our national development, Government is doing what it is tasked to do, fulfil its promise to the people and doing something to improve the lives of all Belizeans,” he sounded.

“The success of this program will address unemployment, it will address poverty through the provision of opportunities, and it will create an enabling business environment.”

 

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