Image: Voice. Financial numeracy involves understanding concepts like budgeting, cash flow, and more.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados–For the first time in Barbados’ history, Government has made a tangible attempt to get its citizens to be better money managers with the launch of the Financial Literacy Bureau (FLB).

The Bureau was officially launched last Sunday, during an official ceremony at Queen’s College, Husbands, St. James.

Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, who addressed the gathering, said establishing the Bureau was absolutely necessary in order to realize the economic transformation in the lives of thousands of Barbadians.

“The mission is about ensuring that we modernize the Barbadian economy, and the way in which we do so…is to continue to train and build the skill sets of micro and small business people across Barbados. If we can get the average beautician, the average shopkeeper, the person doing metal work, auto body repairs…if we can get all of them to understand the rudiments and the basic essentials of how to manage their business effectively, then we have secured business continuity,” he stated.

Mr. Symmonds added that what was missing across the island was adequate emotional support for entrepreneurs.

“Across the society, what has been missing was that we did not hold the hand of the entrepreneur and make it a necessity to engage that entrepreneur who is going in good faith to start his or her business; engage them in a process of education as to the pitfalls they must avoid, as to the things they must be able to do in order to ensure continuity.”

The Minister told his audience that Government would soon be rolling out a national program of standards to ensure that the economic activity of all entrepreneurs meet the Barbadian stamp of excellence, which signifies that the business has met the standard of accreditation and that they were certified as achieving that standard of excellence.

By doing this, Mr. Symmonds said, the enterprises would be more marketable and able to attract customers locally and internationally, thus paving the way for entry into the export market.

Apart from making businesses financially literate, the Small Business Minister spoke to the importance of financial literacy in all sectors.

“We realize that every household, every micro enterprise, every single small enterprise relies heavily on an understanding of how you avoid the snares and pitfalls of doing business and the misfortune that can befall so many of our citizens,” Mr. Symmonds underlined.

The Minister thanked the partners: The Small Business Association the Bankers Association, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados, the credit union movement, insurance companies, and former Minister of Small Business, Dwight Sutherland, and his team, who contributed to bringing the FLB to fruition.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Esworth Reid, in his opening remarks noted that successive governments had worked to create the enabling environment that allowed Barbadians to enjoy a decent standard of living, while paving the way for generations to enjoy the same.

However, despite this, there was a lack of financial literacy to effectively manage money, which hindered the wealth creation and the ability to live a successful life debt free or to maintain a measure of upward social mobility.

Mr. Reid observed that some retirees, who did not adequately plan for their retirement, now relied on the state to take care of them.

“Notwithstanding, there are many young and middle-aged working people today, especially young people, who still believe that preparing themselves financially now for retirement, through some kind of insurance, or even preparing for a rainy day by contributing to a health insurance or a national insurance scheme, is still considered a waste of money. They do not see themselves as enjoying any immediate benefit at the time.”

He continued: “What I would say to such people is that I hope that the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, with so many people losing their jobs and having to depend on the National Insurance Scheme as their only means of income, is an eye-opener and a money changer.  I speak especially to self-employed people.”

Mr. Reid said some business owners did not adequately manage their finances and spent widely, instead of “ploughing it back into the business” or were anxious to grow too quickly and racked up a lot of debt and the business folded eventually.

“I have given just a few examples, but it is against this backdrop of cultural financial indiscipline and financial illiteracy that an argument is justified that there is an urgent need for an institution such as a Financial Literacy Bureau that would seek to stem this type of culture; outreach and train Barbadian citizens across all walks of life, schools, households and business with the skills of financial literacy and money management,” Mr. Reid underscored.

Technical Advisor in the Ministry in his overview of the FLB, said the training clinics will be carried out across a number of satellite locations and online.

The first phase of training will last for six weeks, and will target businesses, households, and community groups. The topics to be covered include: Introducing Financial Literacy, Setting Financial Goals and Budgeting for Family Life; and Living on Employment Benefits, and Costing and Pricing for Businesses.

Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds. (FP)