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28 May 2020

SA – The Small Business Institute beseeches our government to revise regulations about business issued during our state of disaster immediately.

While we respect that our leaders in all tiers of government are making difficult decisions on a daily or even hourly basis, it is our duty as the Big Voice for Small Business, without further delay, to speak out on behalf of our members – business chambers, informal business organisations and SMMEs. We believe that within certain guidelines and reason, this constituency (those still standing) should be allowed to open and run their businesses so that they and their 3.9 million employees can earn their living.

Small and medium enterprises make up not only 98.5% of the number of firms in our economy, but because of their size, they are best placed to manage physical distancing and practice hygienic care. With fewer employees than large corporations, they can better communicate, train, and ensure good habits of hygiene and physical distancing to protect themselves and the customers they serve. At the very least, they should be allowed to pivot their businesses, where possible, to trade online without further delay.

In none of the regulations is an acknowledgement that there are significant differences between the way large and small businesses operating within a sector, or that perhaps SMMEs could avoid much of the risk government has identified merely by being small. It’s time South Africa learn to think differently about how ‘big’ thwarts small. Small is where competition, innovation and dynamism thrive. Big should not dictate to small any longer.

Give small businesses (and their customers) sufficient information to assess and mitigate their risks, staff their operations accordingly, putting health and safety concerns above all others. Let people work. Let businesses get on with the important work of driving the economy. If we unlock small businesses now, we will activate the economy.

Small businesses are the customers of and service providers to large businesses, state-owned enterprises and government. Their employees, too, are customers, pay taxes and vote. The interconnected nature of an economy means small businesses are everybody’s business. Relax the regulations to allow them to operate.

Small Business Institute press release extracts, 12 May 2020

 

Small Business Institute CEO John Dludlu

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