By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE process of doing business in the family islands is “even more opaque” when compared to New Providence and Grand Bahama according to one attorney who said that there were limited mechanisms for governmental approvals.
Christel Sands-Feaste, a partner at the firm Higgs & Johnson, said that doing business on the family islands from start-up to operation was “tremendously difficult”.
“I think that doing business in the family islands from a start-up and operation perspective is tremendously more difficult for two reasons. For one, a portion of the administration is done in the family islands and a portion in New Providence. In Nassau or in Grand Bahama a person establishing a new business can go around to the various agencies on that same island and secure the relevant approvals they need. In the family islands there is very limited mechanism for government approvals, there’s the administrator’s office and maybe town planning but in many instances that application only takes its first step in the family islands. It then has to be sent to New Providence. That adds to time as well as financial challenges,” said Mrs Feaste.
Feaste, who is scheduled to be a speaker at the inaugural Eleuthera Business Outlook on April 25, said that family island businesses faced time and financial challenges. The Bahamas slipped from 77th to 71st overall in the World Bank’s 2013 “Ease of Doing Business” report,and from 74th to 82nd spot in starting a business. “The start up costs are essentially more difficult for family island businesses. In addition, someone who in the family islands may have to engage a service provider which also adds to costs. There are financial and time challenges. The third challenge would be the absence of information or transparency. We often as legal service providers receive complaints that doing business in The Bahamas is opaque. I think that the process is even more opaque in the family islands. The absence of information and a clear road map is a challenge,” Mrs Feaste said.
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson announced at the e-Government & Business Forum last month that key services within the Registrar General’s department will be available online as early as June this year.