No, Sir

Businessman hits back at university official who advised against babying SMEs

Businessman Hal Martin has blasted a university lecturer who recently suggested that small businesses should be allowed to fail if they were struggling to stay alive.

Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Dr Justin Robinson, said at the launch of the Barbados Small Business Network Centre last week that small firms in Barbados should see their membership with the facility as temporary and use it to grow their operations.

He advised the network not to “nanny” the organizations or “keep them on life support”.

Businessman Hal Martin
Businessman Hal Martin

“Some businesses need to fail. If they can’t grow and go to the next level then they need to move out of the programme and make space for the next level coming through . . . Really nobody should want to spend their life in a small struggling marginal micro business eking out a living,” said Robinson.

However, Martin, owner of the struggling Regency Cove Hotel, said he did not agree, adding that there should be more focus on figuring out why the businesses were faltering and finding a solution.

“We know that during a recession all businesses, small and big, need to borrow capital; you cannot survive a recession unless you are being supported . . . Why single out small businesses? Why not let the big businesses fail then?” he said.

Martin also took issue with some commercial banks who refused to give loans to small business operators if they did not meet all the requirements, saying it was “utter nonsense and trash”.

He later told Barbados TODAY that what was needed was a better supporting environment to help local businesses thrive.

Martin suggested a system under which local entrepreneurs were treated differently from larger corporations and non-Barbadian investors when it came to accessing funding.

He said that Government should stand as guarantor for local small and medium enterprises, in the same way it did for large projects.

“We need a formal affirmative action programme where you make concessions available . . . You’ve got to level the playing field. To level that is very easy – the Government provides the guarantee for the small business,” suggested Martin.

“We cannot meet the criteria of the international banks, which is really the banks here, because that criteria is set for a white world.

“We are coming out of slavery and we hardly have any assets, so we can’t be treated in the same way,” the businessman insisted.

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