Meegan Scott

I am left to wonder if irony is being used as a randomized trial for facilitating the evaluation of the impact of some Caribbean development agencies and governments with a mandate for poverty reduction and supporting entrepreneurship.

The incredible comedy of errors: existing businesses— usually small and medium sized consultants or service providers delivers services to development agencies; government departments or international development projects being implemented by one or more of the two aforementioned players.  Contracts are issued with penalties for delivering services late.  Services are delivered on time and within budget however, the service providers go for months at a time without compensation. At times there is no sign-on payment, yet SMEs are expected to thrive and grow while allocating operations time and cost without compensation for four or more months at a time.

In 2017 alone, several consultants and service providers across the region suffered the woes of not getting that cheque for valuable services they provided. One lost office space rented because the rent could not be paid. Others earned bad credit reports and or could not access loans. Relationships suffered as a result of consultants working 60-hour work weeks in order to deliver outputs —accepted and used without pay leaving them unable to finance their portion of household bills.  Others have lost friends as a result of defaulting on loans they intended to pay with monies earned but not received while development agencies and government departments sit on their monies.  Your SMEs should not be called upon to fund development at that level. One consultant even had her car seized while hundreds of dollars US was owing to her.

It is mind blowing to think the leaders of such organizations are not aware of the relationship between cash, the survival and growth of businesses.  How can so many of these entities continue to receive awards and recognition when it is clear that they have lost pieces of their missions and forgotten the scripts of their purpose?  I hope those failures are not born of a disregard for their own and a culture void of service.  IBM, left this message with me many years ago as a student member of the UWI-IBM Leadership Quality Circle, “You can’t spell Quality without “I”.

How do we allow hypocrisy and disregard of our own to retard economic growth and development?

How do we pay lip service when the Region faces a threat to its development and there is a marked absence of high performing businesses in the region as well as in its diaspora markets?  The high performing businesses to which I refer employ 100 or more (individuals) and make close to or more than US $500,000.00 per annum. I use those benchmarks because we are talking earnings, employment creation, growth and competitiveness globally. But I need not go that far you can use your own Caribbean benchmarks. The Region is old enough to have delivered dozens of Golden Krusts (a Caribbean food chain based in New York). Of course, the agencies have made significant contributions, it is just a pity they create with one hand and destroy with the other.

It is ironic that the staff of the very development agencies receive pension, health insurance and all kinds of benefits while the service providers must foot their own cost. Staff in those agencies look forward to their monthly cheque in order to pay their bills. How can entrepreneurs grow businesses when they are incurring debt, paying additional cost on credit cards and utility bills, are unable to take advantage of sales or bulk purchases or to pay for their health care?  In some agencies leadership were content to go home with their Christmas bonuses while service providers where not paid. But more than that they did not feel any obligation to say when service providers would be paid.

It is high time that Caribbean consultants and service providers make it clear that they operate businesses and manage operations against cash flow. Do not cower in the hope of getting another contract. Write those letters to those agencies and government departments; then engage the services of a lawyer if necessary.

It cannot be business as usual when the very entities charged with poverty reduction and facilitating the growth of businesses are creating poverty, strangling existing businesses and wiping out any chance for some entrepreneurs to attain financial wellbeing and economic security. Consultants should not have to name and shame entities in order to collect!

How many employees of those agencies can go for two months without their salaries? How then do they expect consultants and service providers who operate on a feast and famine cycle to survive? Overdue— is the need for additional indicators and penalties for agencies who feel it is within their power and ethical practices to so wilfully create poverty and kill businesses already in the growth phase or exiting the start-up phase, while claiming to support start-ups and other poverty alleviation initiatives.

Black history month is the perfect time to rewrite that plot or change the actors; respect and support your Caribbean and Black SMEs or get out of business. Acting should be left for the theatres.