Power Breakfast “Meet the Minister” Series- Hon. Dr. Duane Sands

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) hosted its second Power Breakfast in the newly launched “Meet the Minister” series July 19th, 2017 at the British Colonial Hilton.  Hon. Dr. Duane Sands addressed health care in the Bahamas.

Hon. Dr. Duane Sands likened a proposed Bahamian health care system based on an aviation model with everyone arriving at the established destination at the same time, while some, those who can afford to be in first class and business class are placed and awarded extra commodities or ‘perks’ than those in coach.

Urging the need to create a plan that is specific to the needs of our country rather than basing our model on those of other countries. Hon. Dr. Duane Sands highlighted that the current issues faced by the Bahamas’ health care stem from inadequate capacity and while’ NHI Bahamas’ is a reasonable concept with the capacity to do great things, that “one size” definitely does not fit all.

 

 

 

Island Insight: San Salvador

Island Overview

Unlike neighboring islands, San Salvador’s greatest assets lie beneath the surface of its waters, offering world-class sports fishing and scuba diving opportunities. However, greater competition and entrepreneurial spirit are needed to energize the local economy and help this island reach its full potential.

Sports Fishing

While many Family Islands offer deep-sea fishing opportunities and excursions, San Salvador distinguishes itself through unrivaled wahoo fishing backed up by exceptional billfish and tuna fishing. Although San Salvador’s fishing industry is not as well-known or commercially developed as those of Family Islands such as Bimini or Abaco, San Salvador has long attracted avid sports fishermen throughout The Bahamas and the United States (U.S.) with the promise of secluded waters and wahoo exceeding 100 lbs. As such, San Salvador is ripe with potential for young Bahamian fishermen interested in providing charter services for visitors to the island.

However, San Salvador’s fishing industry depends on more than just charter fishing entrepreneurs to reach its full potential. The island currently has only a single commercial marina available to yachters outside of Club Med despite the quality of San Salvador’s deep-sea fishing, marking a key investment opportunity for those interested in constructing and managing a marina.

Cultural and Historical Tourism

San Salvador has long been accepted as the site where Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the Americas, yet the island has not capitalized on its unique historical significance. Today, a simple cross marks the reported spot of Columbus’ arrival in the New World, with few resources available to interested visitors or local history buffs. Specialized tours and perhaps a cultural heritage village would complement San Salvador’s existing tourism businesses and provide fresh and worthwhile excursions for those visitors looking for authentic Bahamian experiences beyond the familiar appeal of an all-inclusive resort.

San Salvador is also home to several well-preserved plantations, including The Bahamas’ only preserved records of daily life on a Bahamian plantation, while the Dixon Hill Lighthouse is one of the few remaining manually operated lighthouses still in operation in the world, and one of only three of its kind in The Bahamas. Yet these historical sites remain chronically undeveloped. Greater local buy-in and government commitment to refurbish San Salvador’s historical sites, particularly the site of Columbus’ arrival, could re-brand San Salvador as a historical treasure.

Diving

In addition to its stunning deep-sea fishing potential, San Salvador also boasts world-renowned wall diving within an extremely close range of its coast, featuring rare marine wildlife, including a range of shark species highly sought by divers. Resting on its own carbonate platform, San Salvador offers divers an unrivaled wall diving experience that has led to the island being previously ranked within the top three dive spots in the world by publications such as Dive Magazine and Scuba Magazine. And though the island has long attracted divers from across the world through its current dive excursion options, there is always room for expansion, be it through new dive companies or smaller villa accommodations for visitors.

Challenges

San Salvador has a modest yet sustained population of roughly 1,200, with the bulk of the working population employed by either the government or the Club Med Columbus Isle resort. While this dynamic has instilled a degree of job security in the community, some believe that it has hindered competition and growth.

The lack of meaningful competition in most tourism and service industries is arguably one of the greatest impediments to San Salvador’s growth. For decades, the Club Med Columbus Isle resort has dominated San Salvador’s tourism sector, offering guests an attractive all-inclusive package. While Club Med, the island’s largest private employer, has proved an invaluable driver of the local economy in the past there exist growing concerns that the all-inclusive business model has stifled growth in other branches of the tourism industry.

Aside from Club Med, there exists only a handful of smaller hotels and lodgings, such as the Riding Rock Inn Resort and Marina, which has long served as the only viable marina for yachters. For a bit of context, the island currently only has five accommodations and a mere two restaurants listed on travel site Tripadvisor , despite the fact that the island had experienced steady visitor growth in recent years (with the notable exception of the 2015-2016 season after Hurricane Joaquin) and features an international airport – something that many other Family Islands crave. Excursions and activities beyond those offered at Club Med are similarly limited.

Moving Forward

San Salvador currently occupies a unique position amongst developing Family Islands. It has a small but dedicated visitor base that returns to San Salvador largely due to the strength of the island’s diving industry and the international brand appeal of Club Med, with clear room for growth. Yet there are critically few small businesses to support the existing number of annual visitors, while the island’s service sector remains underdeveloped. New small boutique hotels could attract new and returning visitors while also creating demand for new restaurants and excursions.

 

By: Roderick A. Simms II, BCCEC Director

Family Island Division Chairperson

E: RASII@ME.com

BCCEC Considers Moody’s Rating Action

On 6 July 2017, Moody’s Investor Services announced that it had placed a bond and issuer ratings of the Government (The Bahamas Government) of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (The Bahamas) on review for downgrade.  This announcement highlights the need for a long-term National Development Plan, which addresses challenges faced in the economy of The Bahamas and the resulting impact on the fiscal position and performance of The Bahamas Government.

 

The narrative of the rating action addresses the requirement for improved credibility in financial reporting, with recent financial data presented in the 2017/2018 Budget Exercise significantly differing from projections set out in the Mid-Year Budget Exercise completed only three (3) months prior.  Meaningful analyses of fiscal affairs of The Bahamas requires current, complete and accurate financial data, which can only be achieved by the adoption of modern accounting practices for financial reporting, namely International Public Sector Accounting Standards, which require accrual based accounting and would prevent the debate over which administration incurred obligations that are not recorded until settled in the future.

 

As referenced in the announcement, it is imperative that The Bahamas Government present plans to arrest the deterioration in its fiscal performance and position.  The BCCEC holds the position that such plans must focus on tax reforms, including the improved effectiveness of tax collection-; and expenditure reform.  Further, the most important component of fiscal consolidation plans must be the growth of the economy.  Economic expansion is the rising tide that can float all boats, as it will contribute to increased employment and higher salaries and wages; increased revenues for The Bahamas Government, without increasing the effective tax rate imposed on businesses and citizens; reduced fiscal deficits and debt accumulation, provided expenditure is controlled; and the necessary resources to provide appropriate social benefits and implement programmes to address the social ills impacting progress in the country.

 

Several themes emerged from the working groups facilitated during the annual National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce hosted by the BCCEC in June 2017, which would contribute to economic expansion.  These include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Fiscal responsibility, including legislation and accountability for financial performance;
  • Reduction in bureaucracy in processes involving Government ministries, departments, and agencies;
  • Promotion of public-private partnerships (PPPs);
  • Energy reform;
  • Access to credit by businesses, with emphasis on start-ups; and
  • Collaboration on addressing the ease of doing business.

 

The BCCEC has initiated dialogue and interaction with The Bahamas Government and will be presenting the results and recommendations of the aforementioned working groups at the NCCC.  It is now incumbent upon The Bahamas Government to embrace the support of the private sector, and work collaboratively to facilitate the development and implementation of credit fiscal consolidation plans that have at its root, economic growth, and prosperity.

 

Further, the BCCEC draws attention to the work already performed in relation to the National Development Plan and encourages The Bahamas Government to resume these efforts with a view to completing the long-term vision and strategy for The Bahamas that undoubtedly will present the roadmap to financial, social and environmental successes for the great Bahamaland.

 

Finally recognizing that the Bahamas recently undertook a General Election, ushering in a new administration, it is prudent to allow the new administration the opportunity to establish and begin to implement their economic recovery plan which includes private sector consultation.

 

Together, the public and private sector can present the prospects for The Bahamas in the near and longer term, and translate such prospects into tangible strategic plans that will culminate in a stronger financial position and ultimately provide the foundation for stable sovereign credit ratings in the immediate future, and improved sovereign credit ratings in the long term future.

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Unveils the New Logo in Collaboration with the Sign Man

BCCEC Sign in Conference Room

With Independence Day quickly approaching, the presentation of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s (BCCEC) new logo which sports the official colors of the Bahamian Flag came at a great time, finalizing the rebranding process that The BCCEC began in the year 2015.  On Thursday, June 29, 2017, The Sign Man presented BCCEC with a new sign for the boardroom. The BCCEC incorporated the chambered nautilus shell which signifies evolution and growth in its rebranding, a theme that has become synonymous with the BCCEC and it is what we hope to achieve in the future for the Bahamian Economy.

“We, at the Sign Man, are proud, all Bahamian good corporate citizens and fully support the efforts, goals, and ideals of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation. I hope our new logo sign will promote a “made in the Bahamas” theme of growing our economy” said Peter Bates, President of the Sign Man.

The BCCEC extends gratitude to the Sign Man for this wonderful donation, which brings a vibrant addition to our boardroom.  We were also very impressed with the excellent workmanship and delivery of the new sign. The Sign Man has been a long standing member of the BCCEC and has made significant contributions towards the development of the organization, said Edison Sumner, CEO of the BCCEC.

 

The Sign Man’s contribution to the BCCEC comes on the heels of the installment of the BCCEC’s newly elected Board of Directors ushering in the administrative year for 2017-2018.

BCCEC Boardroom Sign with Signman and BCCEC reps

L-R: Mike Maura- Chairman BCCEC; Omar Cartwright – Sign Man; Patricia Cleare- Sign Man; Edison L. Sumner- CEO, BCCEC

The BCCEC held its Fourth Annual National Conclave of the Bahamas Chambers of Commerce

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) held its fourth annual national conclave of the Bahamas Chambers of Commerce on Wednesday, June 14th, and Thursday, June 15, 2017, at the BahaMar Resort Convention Center. For the past 4 years, the Chamber has been hosting its annual conclave focusing on themes that are of high demand in the private sector bringing together senior policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and academia. This year the theme “Ease of Doing Business” was selected via a public survey.

The event was a major success with an address from both the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Dr. Hon. Hubert A. Minnis and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and Minister of Finance, Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, participation from a range of Ministries in addition to our affiliate chambers located on the Family Islands including Abaco, Andros, Bimini, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama and Long Island. With key policy advisors and makers in attendance, the seminar allowed for five (5) break-out sessions.

These sessions enabled attendees to delve into their topic of interest and allow open debate and discussion in a format conducive to brainstorming. The topics of discussion included

  • Starting A Business
  • Taxation
  • Labor and Employment
  • Energy
  • Archipelago Development and Infrastructure

Full reports on each breakout session will be available to the public shortly. Following the National Conclave committees for each breakout session was implemented to ensure the ideas presented at the discussion will receive focused advocacy to bring about change.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas The Hon. Peter Turnquest Addresses the Conclave “Ease of Doing Business in The Bahamas”

 

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Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

[Protocol]

 

It is certainly a pleasure for me to bring closing remarks to the Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Annual Conclave, focusing on the topic of the Ease of Doing Business in the country.  This issue, in conjunction with the work underway in the Office of the Prime Minister, will be a major focus of my Ministry in terms of promoting new and revised legislation and process reform.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

In February of this year, the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom was released.  This is an index that The Bahamas has traditionally performed well on, and one in which we have been listed as a “Mostly Free” country for the majority of our years as a ranked country.  This year, The Bahamas plunged 9 points in the overall score causing our country rankings to slip from 31st place in 2016 to 90th place in 2017.  We are now considered by this ranking as “Moderately Free”.  We are behind Mauritius, Botswana, Jamaica, El Salvador, Dominica, the Ivory Coast, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, the Dominican Republic, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago and Swaziland, to name a few countries.

 

The Report on The Bahamas states, and I quote,

 

“There is little momentum for economic reform in the Bahamas, which appears gradually to be losing competitiveness vis-à-vis other nations that are moving more rapidly to expand economic opportunity. The emergence of a more dynamic and sustainable private sector is held back by the weak rule of law, lingering protectionism, and bureaucracy that undermines the investment environment.”

 

The report cites as the major concerns:  The Rule of Law, Open Markets, and Fiscal Health.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

This position is unacceptable.  It is time to make the necessary reforms and changes to return this country to a growth enhancing path and towards prosperity.

 

I think that it is always important to start with a goal in mind.  What does a Prosperous Bahamas look like?

 

For me, it is one where there are rising incomes and increased productivity and creativity amongst the population.   It is a place where people are engaged in decent employment and the population is educated and productive and thereby empowered to take advantage of a modern economy.

 

In a flourishing environment, we will see innovative persons feeling comfortable taking the risks of becoming an entrepreneur.  We will also see an environment where government policy creates a platform that minimizes inefficient or wasteful costs of operation, and where sound government policy provides certainty, confidence and an enabling environment for business growth.  We see an environment where the rule of law is the norm.

 

That is The Bahamas that this administration is striving for and this is The Bahamas that we will achieve!

 

Last week you would have heard me present my Government’s first budget to Parliament.  During this contribution, you would have heard of the serious situation of the Government’s finances, including a deficit of some $500 million and a list of commitments that we inherited.  While the fiscal space is limited, we shall utilize efficiency and effectiveness to enable a programme of reform.

 

The Private Sector as the Driver of the Economy

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

When we look at the Bahamian labor market, we have a labour force of just under 216,000[1].  Of this number, approximately 188,360 are employed and 27,520 or 12.7% are unemployed.   We also have about just under 2,500 persons who are discouraged and have left the job market.  Of these, some 780 have never worked.  Given tertiary enrollment rates, we expect to add an additional new 5,000 to the workforce from our school leaving and graduating high school students this year…  ‘

 

However, a closer examination of the labour market demonstrates the well-known truth, that it is the private sector that is the traditional driver of the economy.  Government employment hovers around 10% of the workforce, although there is some expectation that this number would have grown given recent hirings.

 

Nevertheless, 90% of the workforce works in the private sector.  Therefore, the work of the Government to reduce unemployment is based on providing the environment for the private sector to flourish and expand, innovate and hire and grow in profitability.

 

Therefore, for the health of the Bahamian economy, we will need to rely on the growth of the middle class and particularly of small and medium-sized enterprises.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

For many years, I have followed, with great interest, The Bahamas’ decline on the World Bank Doing Business Index.  As the Prime Minister would have mentioned in the Opening Session – Our decline was much more related to not making the necessary reforms when the rest of the world was busily improving their systems and processes.

 

So the first pledge that I make to you is that the days of “inertia” are over.

 

To the developers of the Index of Economic Freedom, I say to you that “Yes, there is much momentum, appetite and political will for economic reform in This Bahamaland.”

 

As Minister of Finance, together with the Prime Minister, we take responsibility for reform and change must come!

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I wish to address the areas of the Doing Business Report which fall directly under my portfolio.  These areas can have a major impact on our standings on these international indices.

 

Starting a Business

The public has long been critical of the process of “Starting a Business” or getting a business license.  It has been regularly stated that the process was difficult and cumbersome, involving many government offices. The Bahamas is currently ranked at 118 of 190 in the category of Starting a Business.

 

The current process involves 8 procedures with a cost of 13.8% of income per capita of the test firm.   The process involves the Registrar General’s Office, the Public Treasury, National Insurance Board and the Department of Inland Revenue.  The regional leaders are Jamaica (ranked 12).

 

We have seen some improvement, with the creation of the Department of Inland Revenue and its current electronic window which allows for the online submission of documents and payment of fees has reduced the time and steps involved in obtaining a business license and is a step in the right direction.  Indeed, The Bahamas has seen its processing time to obtain a business license decline from 28.5 days in 2015 to 21.5 days in 2017.

 

The Government intends to make further improvements with the establishment of a One-Stop-Shop to improve the ease of doing business and fully transform the way in which the Government provides services to the public, to keep pace with this new modern era.  This reform involves a comprehensive transformation in the way in which all of our Government offices operate, including breaking down of the silos that have separated the work of government departments.

 

In the first instance, an MOU to enable cooperation and sharing of documents is needed for all agencies involved.  The next step involves centralizing the service delivery for the company incorporation and business licensing process through the establishment of an inter-agency ‘one window service delivery electronic platform’ for the all of the processes involved in registering a company, obtaining a business license, obtaining the NIB number, tax ID number and payments.  Our aim is to reduce the processing time for starting a business to 5-7 business days and to increase the number of business which moves from the informal or unregistered status to formal status.

 

Today, if you go to the Department of Inland Revenue on Carmichael Road you can already pay your VAT, Property Tax and Business License Fees at one location. Imagine with me, the day when a citizen is able to requisition most of the typical government services through the internet, including payment for the service and then select the location of choice to pick up the original document.

 

Access to Credit

The lack of access to credit has also been a constant cry of the small business community in The Bahamas. The Bahamas currently ranks 139th out of 190 countries in this category on the Ease of Doing Business Index.  The Bahamas scored a 0 out of 8 on the availability of credit information and a 6 out of 12 on the strength of legal rights related to access credit.  The regional leader in this category is Jamaica currently ranked 16th out of 190 countries.

 

To help provide greater access to credit, particularly for small businesses, several initiatives are underway:

  • During the Free National Movement’s last term in office, we began the Jump Start program which provided up to $7,500 in grant financing to start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises. This program will be strengthened to provide much-needed capital to new businesses, or businesses in need of a boost to achieve the next phase of its development.

 

  • We also intend to have discussions with the Financial Services Regulators on appropriate approaches to encourage interest in the Small Business sector within the financial services sector. We are, however, mindful of the delicate balance in the business models of financial firms and the need to maintain their profitability for the overall stability of the financial sector. We are open to evaluating new and innovative approaches, including market-based solutions to improve the availability of financing to the business sector.  We are also mindful that there are particular difficulties in the Family Islands where there are limited financial services options.

 

  • My Government intends to fully support the Central Bank of The Bahamas’ work on the establishment of a Credit Bureau. The legislation has been drafted and is with the Attorney General’s Office.  My Ministry intends to move forward with this initiative as a functioning credit information system is crucial to financial firms being able to allocate credit with better information.  The demonstration of a timely history of payment of financial obligations by a commercial entity opens the door for commercial banks or other institutions to provide loans to these small and medium-sized businesses.

 

Regional peer countries like Jamaica have passed similar legislation since 2010. Jamaica now has 2 functioning credit bureaus.

 

  • The Bahamas will also need to establish a collateral registry to monitor pledged assets. Again, this provides greater information to financial firms which allow them to have more confidence in their lending decisions.

 

  • Additionally, we intend to strengthen the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Capital Fund with an injection of additional capital. Such an injection would need to be supported by transparent rules governing project selection to increase the likelihood of better outcomes.

 

Trading Across Borders

For Bahamian businesses who produce goods for sale in the international market, we are aware of impediments to the ease of doing business.  The Bahamas currently ranks at 152nd of 190 countries in this category.  It currently takes 48 hours to process imports and 56 hours to process exports.  For a small business with limited inventory, this delay in receiving or shipping goods can mean severe financial consequences.

 

Several reform initiatives are underway to improve the trading infrastructure within The Bahamas:

  • The Bahamas is benefiting from an IDB-funded Trade Support Programme. Through this programme, significant improvements have already begun to modernize operations at the Customs Department.  Key components of this program include training of customs officers, upgrading this ICT systems and reviewing and improving current processes making customs more responsive to the public.

 

  • The Trade Support Programme also includes the creation of a trade platform to be launched in the next 15 to 18 months. This platform will allow for the online submission of customs documents and online payment of customs fees. The most important benefit of this process will be reduced time in the clearing of goods by Customs Department thanks to automated processes and improved equipment.

 

 

Paying Taxes

The Bahamas is currently ranked at 95th out of 190 countries for the category “paying taxes”.  The World Bank evaluated that there are 31 payments, 233 hours of processing time and a total tax rate of 33.8% of profits.

 

Again, my Ministry will continue its programme of modernization to improve the ease of paying taxes.  These programmes will include the expansion of automation and electronic submission of documents and payments as well as process reforms to reduce the time to file the relevant taxes at the Department of Inland Revenue.

 

Small Business Development Centre and Capacity Building for Entrepreneurs

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

To aid in capacity building for entrepreneurs, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, who may need more technical assistance on matters such as getting a business license, writing a business plan, managing and developing employees or those wanting to export; the Ministry of Finance, the US Small Business Development Centres and the and the University of The Bahamas are currently collaborating to create the Bahamas Small Business Development Center or BSBDC which will be hosted at the University of The Bahamas.

 

The SBDC will focus on capacity building and development of Small Business entities to help guide them to their next stage of development.  The BSBDC is supported by and a part of a global network of over 1,100 similar centres in North America, South America and the Caribbean; allowing it to benefit from the lessons learnt from myriad other entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized business across the Americas when providing advice.

 

Protecting Minority Investors

A long-standing complaint of many in the business community has been the lengthy time it takes to resolve shareholder disputes.  This matter is key for the success of financial and business service providers in the economy as it deals with issues such as:

  • disclosure rules,
  • conflict of interest rules,
  • director liability,
  • ease of shareholder legal action,
  • conflict of interest regulations,
  • corporate governance issues,
  • transparency rules, and
  • investor protection.

 

We intend to review and modernize the current corporate legislation to improve the disclosure and corporate governance rules to allow for greater transparency for minority shareholders.

 

 

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you may be able to tell by now, my Government is committed to a strategy of modernizing how government delivers its services largely by introducing more technology and improving the service delivery of the public service.   The Prime Minister has mandated each Ministry to become more efficient and to increase the productivity of their offices.

 

The Government is also committed to the process of commencing a Competitiveness Council to provide timely advice on needed improvements.  We intend to carefully consider this advice in our policy making.

Finally, I trust that you have had a productive Conclave.  I look forward to the outcome reports on specific issues to address the ease of doing business in The Bahamas.

Thank you.

[1] http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/wps/wcm/connect/9b2acb12-3067-445f-a582-e3861ae55441/Labour+Force+Press+Release_May+2016.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

BCCEC Chairman, Mike Maura Addresses the Chamber Institute in partnership with CEC and ILO’s Social Dialogue Workshop

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Per the ILO pamphlet on Social Dialogue, Social Dialogue includes all types of negotiation, consultation or simply an exchange of information between or among representatives of Governments, employers and workers on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy.

As I reflected on the importance of this workshop and the definition of an effective Social Dialogue the following came to mind:

  • Defined Process
  • Understanding & Agreement
  • Commitment to Partnership
  • Symbiotic

I then thought of the influence that these attributes may have:

  • The ability to anticipate and mitigate the risk associated with change
  • Expediting and or supporting innovation
  • Maximizing the return on capital
  • Job Security and Personal Development

I then pondered how would one know when they had attained effective Social Dialogue?

  • Labor and Employer were collaborating side by side
  • Labor recognized and accepted that an Enterprise’s return on capital must be competitive “or” better than investment alternatives
  • Labor understood and ensured that goods and services must add value to the Customer and End User, and
  • Employer recognized and accepted that Labor required job security, safe working conditions, a competitive wage, and opportunity.

As I reflected on the past 10 years I thought I’d share a personal experience. Labor and Business have faced many challenges during this period. The global recession which began in 2008 brought unprecedented economic hardship. My industry specifically, the marine transport sector, beginning in 2008 experienced what I refer to as the “perfect economic storm”. That year cargo volumes declined by over 20% while the ocean freight rates fell by as much as 50%. The Nassau market had over $50 million in ships transiting between Florida and Nassau. In 2008 vessel revenue fell by over 25% while port and vessel operating costs remained relatively static. While this economic period was devastating, the company staff and its stevedoring union. The union leadership and management recognized the difficult environment and then need to work as partners. It was a time that required trust and faith. Today, that shipping company, its staff and the very same stevedore union “all” enjoy the fruit from their “Social Dialogue”.

 

While we pray, we don’t see another global recession, our reality is that we have many other challenges facing both Labor and Business. We have heard much discussion on the Bahamas Ease of Doing Business. In 2016 and 2017 the Ease of Doing Business ranking was 120 and 121 respectively. This compares to Jamaica which enjoys a ranking of 67 out of 190 economies. The high cost of energy is another area which continues to strangle our economy. These are relevant to today’s discussion because these are threats to both Labor and Business and directly limit:

  • Available Capital to Invest
  • Job Creation
  • Training and Development
  • Our Disposable Income
  • Our Health
  • Our Education
  • Our Quality of Life

Labor and Business, “must” pursue a positive Social Dialogue. By working together there is little doubt in my mind that:

  • bridges can be built where none existed, and
  • innovation will come from all sides.

This collaborative approach can also serve to assist Government in policy reform and development, expediting our National recovery. A government has historically been slow to enact progressive labor or business policies for fear of retribution. We can only imagine the degree of national progress if Labor and Business “jointly” assisted to olicy makers.

The path to a better Bahamas is wide enough for both labour and business, with both adapting along the way.

A strong economy is a WIN for all.

As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

The BCCEC via its Labour and Employment Division is committed to proposing and supporting a policy which fuels broad economic growth and prosperity. Furthermore, the BCCEC is committed to productive Social Dialogue.

Thank you for allowing me to share a few comments and I wish you all a great workshop.

 

Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Dr. the Hon. Hubert Alexander Minnis addresses the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s Conclave “Ease of Doing Business in The Bahamas”

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COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS

Remarks

Dr. the Hon. Hubert Alexander Minnis

Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Conclave

“Ease of Doing Business in The Bahamas”

Hyatt Baha Mar Convention Centre

New Providence, The Bahamas

Wednesday, 14th June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Gowon Bowe, Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation;

Mr. Edison Sumner, Chief Operating Officer;

Presidents of Family Island Chambers of Commerce,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

A pleasant good morning.

The leading priority of my administration is economic growth, job-creation, and wealth-creation.  In this vein, I am pleased to be here to address the government’s ideas for improving the ease of doing business for Bahamians, residents and foreign investors.

These ideas are not exhaustive.  I welcome your ideas and proposals in this area.

 

In the World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business Report, The Bahamas received an overall ranking of 121 out of 190 countries in the world for its ease of doing business.  This is a decline from its ranking of 120 in the 2016 Report and a ranking of 97 in the 2015 Report. This puts The Bahamas well behind many in region.

 

For example: Jamaica ranked 67; St. Lucia ranked  86; Trinidad and Tobago ranked 96 and the Dominican Republic ranked 103.

 

Much of our decline in the ease of doing business is due to inertia.  Countries around us are rapidly instituting changes and simplifying processes to make it easier for businesses to operate.

 

But The Bahamas has been slow to modernize; slow to adapt to change; slow to introduce certain innovations and slow to embrace various technologies.  And we have been slow to adopt new mindsets.

 

Three of the priority areas to be targeted for reform are: the business license process, the investor proposal process and various immigration processes, including work permits.

 

We urgently need to simplify and streamline government processes, including the simplification of forms.  Applicants are often asked to provide repetitive or unnecessary information.

 

Many investors complain about how long it takes to get a response from government.  Some business people have waited years to hear back on an investment proposal.

One young Bahamian entrepreneur approached the last administration for Crown Land to develop a project that would put more money into the economy and employ a good number of Bahamians.

After the last government ran him around for years he had to end up buying property.  His foreign partner told him, that he, the partner, believed more in him than his own government.

 

Some foreign investors have left the country, fed up at the time it took various cabinet ministers or government offices to respond.

 

Because “time is money”, the amount of time it has taken The Bahamas to respond to various investors, has likely cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars at minimum.

 

Easing the cost and time of doing business will help to boost economic growth!

 

Under the previous government, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Tourism were notorious for running investors around and not responding in a timely manner.

 

Sadly, both of these ministries often looked more favorably on foreigner investors than they did on Bahamian investors.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

Getting a response from the Immigration Department is often a nightmare.  There has historically been a problem of public officers in Immigration wanting something for doing their job.  We will have to continue to root out any graft in the immigration process.

 

I have advised the Minister of Immigration as a matter of urgency to reduce the time it takes for an application or renewal to be processed.

 

We are also undertaking other measures in Immigration that will be revealed at another time.  Those who may not be acting in an appropriate manner should take note.  It will not be business as usual.

 

Government must ensure that rules are clear and transparent.  Everyone must understand the rules, which must be equally applied to all businesses.  The service standards and rules must be published.

 

We need clear guidelines established for government processes in terms of requirements and processing times.

 

In the age of advanced computer algorithms and Smart technology, waiting weeks or even months for the processing of certain documents or approvals must be a thing of the past.

 

For example, the business license process takes too long and must be shortened.  The inertia in the process must be removed.

 

To address the long wait times for various applications and proposals, my administration will introduce a Decision Timeline, which informs applicants and investors when they should receive a response on a given matter.

 

An advanced tracking system will be put in place to identify the bottlenecks and roadblocks.  The relevant agencies will be monitored to see how well or poorly they are meeting or missing their deadlines.

 

The Bahamas Investment Authority must be modernized and become more transparent. We will work with the private sector and experts for advice on transforming this Authority to make it more accountable and open, and less cumbersome in its decision-making process.

 

Under the previous administration there were constant complaints about having to see certain people in order to get a proposal reviewed or approved.

 

Transparency International and other agencies have documented the degree to which corrupt practices stymie economic growth and development.  Corruption has cost the Bahamas untold hundreds of millions or more over the decades.

 

I have previously noted the measures we will take to respond to corrupt practices in government.  Investors should not have the cost of doing business increased by certain officials looking for something.

 

Good governance enhances credibility, stability and reliability, all of which are important to business, economic growth and investor confidence.  My administration is committed to transparency, openness and accountability.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

My Government believes that establishing a “One stop shop” for doing business with the government is a practical solution.  We will be developing a “one window to government services” strategy going forward.

 

This will require government departments working across silos and utilizing appropriate technology within government departments to integrate systems and databases.

 

We should remove unnecessary double approval regimes.  After the Securities Commission approves certain licenses by a foreign entity or individual, why must BIA have to give another approval?  We will review this process.

 

With respect to investment incentives, we will ensure that our investment incentives regime is transparent and more easily accessible to Bahamian entrepreneurs.

 

We will introduce investment incentives for new and existing Bahamian businesses offering products and services related to key sectors for the Bahamian economy such as: renewable energy, the cultural industries, export sectors, agricultural and fisheries sectors, and the manufacturing of authentic Bahamian souvenirs.

 

My Government believes that providing incentives, particularly to private companies offering products and services in the renewable energy sector will reduce the cost of energy in the country.  This will reduce the cost of doing business in the Bahamas.

 

These incentives coupled with promoting energy conservation and ensuring that Bahamas Power and Light has the infrastructure needed to function is critical for business development.

 

We must also address the ease by which businesses can access banking facilities in the country. We should encourage financial institutions to help the small business sector with financial products aimed at Bahamian businesses.

 

We must ensure that frameworks exist so that Bahamians firms have greater access to capital through new and innovative financial products and markets.

 

A signature programme of the government will be the introduction of an ambitious initiative to develop a new generation of young entrepreneurs.  I will call on a number of you in launching a programme dear to my heart.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

There is a direct relationship between savings and investments.  Countries which save have more funds to invest.  This is one factor in the economic growth success of many countries in Asia.

The Bahamas has traditionally had low levels of savings.  We have relied on foreign savings in the form of Foreign Direct Investment to fund large projects.

Strong growth in national savings is will help facilitate an increase in locally financed investments.

It is therefore crucial that we take steps to improve our national savings performance through increasing household savings, and increasing public savings in order to promote sustainable economic growth.

 

Of course, Foreign Direct Investment remains essential for The Bahamas.  My Government will therefore ensure that we attract high quality FDI which is aligned to our national development priorities and creates beneficial linkages with the local economy.

 

As an open country, we must also ensure that we have good trade and industrial policy in place.  We have distinguished ourselves as an international services based economy.  Access to international markets on favourable terms is important.

 

We must ensure that we effectively utilize existing trade agreements such as the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement.

 

Our trade promotion agencies must be aggressive in promoting existing and new trading opportunities in the country, so that the world understands what we have here and that the Bahamas is open for business: fair business and honest business.

 

You will note that Immigration, Financial Services and Trade and Industry are in one ministry.  This should help with the ease of doing business for potential investors.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

There is much work to be done.  My Government is instituting a reform and modernization agenda for The Bahamas.

 

Having been in business for many years, I understand your challenges.  Let us work together to address these challenges as we embrace the many opportunities for economic growth and development.

 

Thank you for your invitation.  Good morning.

 

______

 

 

 

Simply Natural Hopes to Benefit from Bahamas Trade Information Portal

The global organic personal care market is expected to reach USD $15.98 billion by 2020. Savvy Bahamian entrepreneurs are tapping into this market and are looking for ways to expand their businesses both locally and internationally.

Simply Natural, a Bahamian company which manufactures natural, organic beauty products and handmade cosmetics, is positioning itself as a leader in the industry. Its line of products includes Mint Almond Oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil, Whipped Shea Butter and Coffee Coconut Body Scrub.

Simply Natural’s products are available at several locations on New Providence and the company’s owner, Ms. Keisha Moss, after learning about the recently launched Bahamas Trade Information Portal hopes to use the platform to assist her in exporting her products internationally.

The company registered on the Portal this month, joining the growing number of businesses that are signing up. “This is a great way to get your business international and allow others to see what The Bahamas and small businesses have to offer,” said Moss.

Launched in April 2017, the Bahamas Trade Information Portal is an online one-stop- shop that allows small, medium and large enterprises that export, or wish to export, their goods and services to showcase their products to buyers in the international market.

Businesses that register with the Portal are provided with an individual mini-webpage that lays out their company profile along with product photos and videos. The mini-webpage also includes a contact form so that international buyers can contact local businesses directly.

In addition, the Bahamas Trade Information Portal provides entrepreneurs with easy access to essential international business & trade data that can assist them with foreign market opportunities.

The Portal also offers many free online courses on marketing; how to access sources of financing; how to create an export strategy; and how to generate export business.

According to Charo Walker, Trade Portal Manager, “The Portal is an incredible resource for businesses that want to take advantage of the rewards that global trade offers. It helps businesses that may not yet be ready to export, to become export ready. For those companies that are exporting the Portal showcases the goods and services that they offer. The registration process is very simple and there is no cost involved in registering. The objective is to grow the economy and I would like to encourage the business community to capitalize on this opportunity.”

The Portal is the result of a public-private partnership between the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade, Industry and Immigration and The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). Registration on the Portal is free and application forms can be obtained at both agencies.

 

For more information visit: www.bahamastradeinfo.gov.bs or call the Chamber of Commerce at 322-2145.

The Chamber Institute Announces the Disaster Preparedness and Continuity Seminar

With the hurricane season upon us The Chamber Institute- the education arm of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation announced its upcoming Disaster Preparedness and Business Continuity workshop that will be taking place June 23rd, 2017 at the British Colonial Hilton 9am-4:30 pm.

Ms. Sherrell Storr, SME Division Administrator, and Chamber Institute Executive Director highlighted the importance of small and medium enterprises preparing for natural disasters such as those experienced in recent history.  Highlighting that many businesses did not have disaster or continuity plans in the event of a disaster, the Chamber Institute The Workshop will cover information that has the power to initially save a business after a disaster, with specialists both locally and internationally the Chamber Institute in partnership with the Carribean Employers’ Confederation (CEC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) sponsored by The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)

Highlighting that many businesses did not have disaster or continuity plans in the event of a disaster, Ms. Storr stated that the workshop will cover information that has the power to initially save a business after a disaster, with specialists both locally and internationally speaking at the event, the Disaster Preparedness, and Continuity Workshop is imperative for any entrepreneurs invested in the sustainability of their business.

The Disaster Preparedness and Continuity Workshop is being hosted by The Chamber Institute – The education branch of the BCCEC in partnership with the Carribean Employers’ Confederation (CEC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) sponsored by The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)