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Small business got no government support

OPINION: Small business got no government support – why not Minister Mboweni?

DURBAN - Wednesday saw the Minister deliver the most crucial Medium-term Budget Policy Speech (MTBPS) in years, on the back of skyrocketing debt that is expected to reach 60 percent of GDP if no intervention is made.

And it may bear some harsh realities for all South Africans.

Some conservative estimates suggest Mzansi’s economy will struggle to top the 1 percent mark over the next 12 months.

Tuesday's unemployment figures reflect an 11-year high of 29.1 percent, with joblessness amongst the youth well over 50 percent.  If job creation is a strategic imperative for South Africa and the SME sector is responsible for 60 percent of jobs, then surely we should be spending more to stimulate this part of the economy?

"Whilst we welcome many of the measures that Minister Mboweni announced today he seems to once again have ignored the productive part of the economy being the SME business owners who together account for over 50 percent of employment and over 50 percent of GDP in SA," said Karl Westvig, Chief Executive of Retail Capital, a leading SME funder that’s provided over R3 billion to over 15 000 SMEs.

 

He added, "We believe more should be done & more funding should be directed towards them to support the economy and job creation".

The staggering figures released yesterday estimate the number of insolvencies have increased by 43,3 percent in the three months ended August 2019 compared to the same period last year.

"There isn’t enough being done by the government to stimulate the SME sector and in turn create jobs. Our unemployment crisis coupled with the total number of liquidations increasing by 10,5 percent in the first nine months of 2019 compared to last year, is a clear sign that it’s time for Government to be bold and deliver," said Westvig.

"Much fanfare has surrounded the Chief Executive SME Fund Initiative, but the total value is a paltry R1.24 billion  in a R5 trillion economy, and where government has a budget of R1.4 trillion. That represents 0.1 percent of the annual budget," exclaimed Westvig.

The private sector, through banks and non-bank financial services companies, lend an estimated R500 billion to SMEs. Most of this is skewed to existing businesses who already have a strong balance sheet and assets that can be used as security. According to the recent Finfind study, the SME funding gap is between R86 billion and R346 billion.

Non-bank financial-services businesses that lend to smaller, unsecured businesses or start-ups have an exposure more like R5 billion.

 

'From experience, for every R170 000 lent to an SME, a job is created. Simple maths, if the R1.5 billion is advanced, then 9 000 jobs can be created. A drop in the ocean, when we have a jobless rate closer to 6.65 million people. According to The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), the median salary in South Africa is R3 300 and each job supports around 3,5 people in a household," said  Westvig.

He added, "If we could target one million new jobs, a fund of R170 billon should be established. If our government was serious, they could make 25 percent of that available as guarantees or grant funding. The private sector could fund the 75 percent, using the 25 percent from government as first-loss security, allowing it to raise cheaper funding from asset managers. With this as an incentive, the private sector would innovate to deliver funding at reasonable rates, through new channels and support the growth in the SME sector".

There are other ways for Government to stimulate SME growth - reduce the tax burden, the red-tape and provide a Small Business Grant.

Westvig said, "On registering a new business, tax registration, opening a bank account and a credit-bureau check, each entrepreneur could qualify for a once-off grant, say R10 000.  There would be no restrictions as to what it be used for - it could be for stock purchases, a deposit for premises or any other purpose. The failure rate, or misuse of the funds, would probably run at a high rate of over 65 percent, but the 35 percent who do use it to create a productive business, would probably each employ three people, be formal, registered businesses and thereby contribute to GDP and job creation".

"For R10 billion, 100 000 new businesses could be created and supported, 35 000 of them would be viable and growing. More importantly it would create jobs for four people (including the entrepreneur), meaning 140 000 newly-employed individuals. A grant with a simple but serious registration process would be a welcome injection to support innovation and self-employment. Think of this as the “Msanzi” account for SMEs with an opening grant," concluded Westvig.

The time for Government to be bold is now.  Over to you Mboweni.

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