Since last year, the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) has done significant ground work in researching the success of the SBDC model in the US, Mexico and Central America and more importantly, its applicability to Belize. MSMEs represent a significant share of economic activity in Belize, a key instrument in poverty alleviation, and are considered a principal employer of the labour force. Given the importance of this sector, BELTRAIDE has given priority to its growth and development and has adopted a holistic approach that will facilitate targeted interventions to address the challenges faced. The work ahead requires partnerships with key stakeholders and BELTRAIDE has been reaching out to private sector, public sector and academia.
Below is extract from the report prepared by Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) on the consultation meeting with key stakeholders, hosted by BELTRAIDE and DFC, on March 2nd, 2012, at the Belize Bilmore Plaza, with key stakeholders to assess the feasibility of adapting and implementing the SBDC model in Belize.
“Within the framework of the initiation of the project of implementing the SBDC model in Belize, and taking into consideration the interest of Belize in assessing the possibility of adapting and implementing the SBDC model, with the goal of broadening and improving assistance services to the micro and small business sector, on March 2nd, 2012 the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) and the Belize Development Finance Corporation (DFC) in collaboration with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) hosted the event titled “Small Business Development Center Model: learning the SBDC model of the University of Texas at San Antonio”, during which the SBDC model promoted by the University of Texas at San Antonio was presented. Following the presentation of the model, participants were divided in groups by stakeholder sector (private, public/NGO/academic and financial institutions), with the goal of obtaining feedback on the possibility of successfully adapting and implementing the model within the context of Belize as well as assessing their interest in participating in such project.
- I. OVERARCHING GOAL
To determine, in collaboration with the country’s key players, if the necessary conditions to successfully adapt and implement the SBDC model exist in Belize and to assess stakeholders’ interest in participating in this initiative.
- II. SPECIFIC GOALS
- To learn the operations of the SBDC model and if it is possible to tailor it to the current needs of Belize;
- Assess if the necessary conditions to implement and adapt the SBDC methodology exist in Belize;
- Assess stakeholders’ interest in participating in and providing funds (cash or in-kind) for the project if it were to happen in Belize.
- III. AGGREGATED RESULTS OF STAKEHOLDERS GROUPS DISCUSSIONS
The results of each stakeholder group discussion table are summarized based on feedback from: 1) Public/Academic/NGO sector, 2) Private sector and 3) Financial sector
Conclusions, based on the report indicates that:
“The consultation has allowed participants to learn in more detail the US SBDC model;
- As a result of the information presented, 100% of the public, private and academic sectors representatives considered that the model could be adapted in Belize and would support the implementation of it. Additionally, they stressed how this initiative will also help government meet their obligations and commitments to the MSME sector, particularly in respect to efforts of poverty reduction.
- Representatives of both the public and private sectors commented on the imminent need of a policy restructuring in order to facilitate small business development, especially in regards to the financial availability and structure.
- According to the feedback received, all stakeholders think it responds to a need that has not been fully met in Belize, thus ensuring “buy-in” across the sectors.
- A major concern for most stakeholders, especially the private sector, is the continuity and follow-up of this initiative given the upcoming elections. Businesses are hopeful that the SBDC Model will take off irrelevant of which party wins, given that both parties have stressed the need to empower MSMEs.
- The financial sector seems to be very supportive of this Model and sees it as a way to reduce risk in MSME Sector Financing.
- BELTRAIDE is very committed in implementing the SBDC Model in Belize, with the support and input from all stakeholder groups and many other partners with the public sector. Executive Chairman, Michael Singh, expressed his institutions’ commitment in this regard and provided a road map on the way forward at the end of the consultation.
- With the goal of assessing the real feasibility of implementing the model and determining its impact in Belize, it is required to analyze the model implementation strategy in terms of: technical, legal and financial feasibility; key players; processes; progress; etc.”
Trainings will be carried out for future trainers and directors of these centers, in the upcoming months. Information on these trainings will be shared as soon as the dates have been finalized with the University of Texas at San Antonio, Organization of American States, and Caribbean Export Development Agency.