Every minister should be a minister of small business

LETTER: Small business strategy

It is understandable that the consultant to the small business development minister, Thami Mazwai, is keen to preserve his job and that of his benefactor.

But by using his opinion piece to characterise our research, its motivation and our suggestion to dismantle the department of small business development — part of a grossly inflated cabinet — as “phantasmagorias”, he paints similar comments by the chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee for small business development with the same brush.

ANC MP Ruth Bhengu has also questioned the need to keep the department when it has repeatedly been unable to describe, let alone fulfil, its mandate. She has pointed out, inter alia, that the department is in breach of the Small Business Act; that in four years the minister has tabled no strategy; gazetted only one regulatory amendment and only in 2018 delivered a plan for the organisation’s structure.

Committee hearings have highlighted investigations into allegations of fraud and corruption in the department; vacancies at senior management level; and that the department has no plans to use legislation, regulations, licensing, budget, procurement and broad-based black economic empowerment charters to influence private sector behaviour to drive transformation. Members of the committee also questioned the department’s underspending of its budget when assistance to SMMEs is so vital.

For us it’s simple: every minister should be a minister of small business. SMMEs are not a “sector, they are a segment of every sector” — a point Dr Mazwai fails to acknowledge in his missive. Maintaining a separate ministry — even an effective one — puts SMMEs into a silo and ensures they remain the Cinderella of our economy rather than effective job creators and the drivers of inclusive growth.

What our research has already uncovered and will reveal in the coming year will provide the foundation for a new strategy and a new white paper based on evidence and current data so that we can indeed join in creating a new, more prosperous SA.

by Business Day – https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/letters/2018-12-19-letter-small-business-strategy/

Bernard Swanepoel, executive director, Small Business Institute