Pledges of support for small businesses in the state of the nation address and the 2018 budget look great on paper. And though the sector has heard it all before, things could really be different this time. Government has an excellent track record of paying mere lip service to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It has consistently failed to put the sector at the centre of policy making despite the critical role small businesses play in creating jobs. According to national treasury, the sector employs 47% of the workforce, contributes more than 20% of GDP and pays about 6% of corporate taxes. Despite this, government has allowed the small business environment to deteriorate markedly in recent years. Since 2015, SA’s position has plummeted 75 places, to 136 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business survey for the ease of starting a business. It takes 45 days for an entrepreneur to meet the regulatory requirements to get a business up and running in SA, whereas it takes...

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