The Trinidad & Tobago government says it is using the “very successful” model implemented by Jamaica through its junior stock exchange to develop the SME, or small and medium enterprises, market of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, addressing the launch of the SME Mentorship Programme and SME Market Place, said that it is noteworthy that the Jamaica Stock Exchange has had such success with its junior market.
The JSE junior market facilitates the listing of small companies, using 10 years of tax breaks as incentive. It was launched in 2009, with the first listing in October of that year.
“Where we have just two companies on the SME tier of our market, both of which have struggled in recent times, Jamaica has 46 active companies listed on its junior market,” said Imbert.
“So, we decided to see what was different in Jamaica that we could incorporate here. The key difference was the presence of mentors. In Jamaica, by strategically developing their competencies, and acting as a compliance adviser, mentors directly contribute to a company’s growth, innovation, and overall strategy, thus improving customer and investor confidence in the company,” he added.
Imbert said that these mentors are expected to act with due skill and care, and be responsible for advising the board of the junior market company on the establishment of adequate procedures, systems and controls, in order to comply with good standards of corporate governance.
He said these include the holding of regular board meetings; the establishment of appropriate committees of the board, including an audit committee and a compensation committee; as well as the carrying out of appropriate due diligence before it enters into any material transaction. He added that good fiscal discipline, such as the keeping of proper accounts and records, good human resource and industrial relations practices, and compliance with statutory obligations, are also necessary.
Imbert told the launch that complementary to the tax incentives and to ease the operational burden of listing, the government, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange, has designed a similar mentorship programme that would provide the necessary support to the SMEs and close the gaps of insufficient documentation, as well as ensure adherence to compliance and corporate governance standards.
The proposed SME mentorship rules were published by the TTSE in June and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August.
“This SME Mentorship Programme demonstrates the willingness of the TTSE to work with the government to invest the time and resources necessary to assist companies to operate efficiently on the stock market,” said Imbert.
“Furthermore, with the operationalisation of the SME Mentorship Programme, the government aims to integrate the other support services provided to SMEs by government agencies, in an effort to promote a stable and accessible environment for the growth of SMEs.”
Then finance minister said that as a result, a single entry portal, SME Market Place, was developed on the Ministry of Finance website which will provide access to information on the SME market and procedure for listing on the stock exchange, as well as provide access to other support services offered by government agencies.
“The portal will also provide 24/7 online access, connecting SMEs with business support products and services currently offered by various public- and private-sector entities. Aside from the 24-hour access, the portal will provide public and private entities with the opportunity to engage new SME clients,” he said. He added that the overall objective of the government was to create an environment, via various programmes, to grow and expand the SME sector by increasing access to traditional and new export markets, as well as enhancing the capacity and competitiveness of firms in the non-energy manufacturing sector.
Imbert said the initiative was intended to attract investors through the creation of new economic space and the development of a modern regulatory framework, as well as to facilitate improvements in the ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago.
“The entire suite of programmes geared towards the SME sector will strengthen its governance structure, sharpen its competitiveness, and continue to contribute to the expansion of the non-energy sector,” he said.
“I believe that a strong focus on SMEs’ strategic objectives will aid in more engagement, compliance and operational effectiveness and efficiency for the overall benefit of the economy of Trinidad and Tobago,” Imbert added.