Published on The Times of Malta issue 26th June 2011
The ideals and goals of the Small Business Act¸ a long-awaited¸ ‘monumental’ piece of legislation¸ must be promoted at a time when local business has faced negative sentiment in the wake of the down-turn¸ PKF Malta’s Audrey Ann Cassingena told The Sunday Times.
Ms Cassingena said although the act mirrored EU legislation issued in 2008¸ it boasted notable additions like the inclusion of the College of Regulators and the screening of laws for the SME test.
Ms Cassingena is the co-ordinator of ‘Regenerating entrepreneurship’¸ a half-day seminar organised by the Birkirkara-based audit firm at the Westin Dragonara Resort¸ St Julian’s¸ on July 6. The event will focus on the wider implications of the Small Business Act – already deemed a ‘best practice’ example in European circles – on Malta’s commercial community.
She explained the fundamental theme of the SBA is to encourage authorities and other stakeholders to ‘think small first’ – a considerable challenge that can best be met by raising awareness.
“A poignant aspect of the discussion is the perception that access to finance for SMEs is getting tougher¸ but the EU-assisted ‘Jeremie’ scheme is a solution which can be set as a milestone for more initiatives¸” Ms Cassingena added.
“On paper¸ it is being proposed that businesses will be given the opportunity to communicate their views and discuss their needs with the government through the Enterprise Consultative Council¸ which will also be directly involved in the consultation process of the application of the SME test. This test will ensure that suitable measures are taken to mitigate any identified negative impacts especially on smaller businesses.”
A College of Regulators¸ Ms Cassingena said¸ will be established to vigorously streamline any overlapping of laws accumulated over the years through jointmeetings with the Enterprise Consultative Council.
A ‘transition’ period between the publication and implementation of the SBA legislation has been proposed. Meanwhile¸ online centralisation of business information will enable Malta Enterprise to provide firms with reliable and complete information.
The Act also encourages a wider use of codes of ethics in SMEs to improve supplier-client relations and foster a culture of quality service which should help local businesses to retain their market position.
“This exercise focuses on keeping the smaller businesses at the forefront of policy-making¸” Ms Cassingena said. “However¸ in reality we must be more vigilant to make the most of our entrepreneurial potential¸ not forgetting the female sector which lags behind the EU and US averages in both business start-ups and self-employment even though the number of graduates from MCAST and University are equally divided among men and women.”
Ms Cassingena said the Central Bank’s Quarterly Review revealed that consumer confidence across most occupational segments plunged to a record low of -41 in the first quarter. The trend affected smaller businesses due to their inevitable reliance on the domestic market.
She emphasised how these statistics were a constant reminder of the value that should be given to harnessing SMEs. No effort must be spared to reduce unnecessary red tape in the public sector to trim inefficiency and ineffectiveness&ce