Assembly Member, Mohammad Asghar, writes about small businesses in todays South Wales Argus

Small businesses play a vital role in our economy and to our communities.

Unlike large companies which can relocate to other regions and even to other countries should they so wish, small businesses are embedded in the communities they are based in.

They provide job opportunities and trade in the localities they serve.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses Wales, everyone in Wales looking for a job could be employed if every small or medium enterprise recruited one more person.

But we have to recognise the private sector in Wales is too small.

And there are problems within the existing private sector with medium size enterprises making up less than one per cent of the total number of businesses in Wales.

The Welsh Government needs a strategy to support the private sector in Wales by clear and coherent policies to encourage business start-ups.

They must also use the powers at their disposal to create the conditions that will give our small and medium sized businesses the opportunity to grow and to thrive.

Access to finance must be improved as a matter of urgency.

Finance Wales has been under review for two years after being called unfit for purpose.

We believe access to finance needs to be localised to stimulate the economy.

Business rates, rent and wages are the three largest outgoings for small businesses.

Abolishing rates for businesses with a rateable value below twelve thousand pounds, and providing tapered relief for those up to fifteen thousand pounds, would provide timely help to allow companies to focus on expanding their business and to take on new staff.

Enterprise Zones can make an important contribution to growing the economy.

But progress so far in Wales has been patchy.

Between April 2014 and March 2015 only seven jobs were created in Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone.

The Welsh Government must take this opportunity to reassess and refresh its approach to Enterprise Zones to address the current serious imbalance of outcomes.

Wales does not lack people with the initiative and drive to start their own businesses.

What is lacking is a Welsh Government providing the support they need to promote wealth creation and employment.

May I wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.