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Bajan SMEs encouraged to register with National Insurance Department

Barbados’s Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland last week pleaded with small businesses to register with the National Insurance Department (NID).

While on a tour of Chickmont Foods Limited in Lowlands, Christ Church, on Friday, Sutherland explained that by registering with the NID, small operators can access financing and assistance for their enterprises.

Barbados’s Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland (Photo: Barbados Today)

“The Government wasn’t asking you to be up-to-date with your National Insurance payments; we were simply asking you to register. Some businesses shy away from it because they are not financially literate, meaning from the standpoint [of] the term financial literacy,” the minister clarified.

“Some of these small businesses believe that if they register with the NIS that the Government will come after you for NIS payments and that’s not the case,” he added.

During the visit, Minister Sutherland witnessed various aspects of Chickmont Foods’ operations and heard about the challenges facing the industry, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, he pointed out that businesses have found the last three months to be extremely challenging.

Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland (centre), looks on as Chief Executive Officer of Chickmont Foods Ltd Dominic Defreitas (left) examines one of the birds coming off from the production line. Chickmont Foods’ General Manager Edward Albecker also looks on. (Photo: GIS Barbados)

However, he also acknowledged that in response to COVID-19-related challenges, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has created for small businesses a wage subsidy up to a maximum of BD$1,000 over a two-month period, for disbursement through Fund Access.

Sutherland, therefore, reiterated that businesses can only access the fund if they registered with the National Insurance Department.

“All the Government wants to do is to bring these small businesses from the informal sector to the formal business sector and this simply means that we are giving you an opportunity to become bankable; we are giving you the opportunity to improve your credit rating; and we are also giving you the opportunity to not only access financing, but to access assistance,” he pointed out.

The National Insurance Department in St Michael, Barbados (File photo)

The minister added that Government had signed on to training opportunities for the sector through overseas agencies, and pointed out that if it was seeking grant funding to improve the sector, then the onus was on business owners to ensure they were registered in the system.

“When you sign up with the National Insurance, you are captured and known.  If we are looking to see the impact of the micro and small enterprises to GDP, it gives us more leverage to come up with an accurate figure as to how these small businesses are doing, in terms of generating revenue, their contribution to GDP, how many employees they have …. We are not asking to look into your books to see how much money you are making; we just want to help you, so register with NIS.  It could benefit some businesses,” Sutherland emphasised.