By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamian management consultants are seeking to quadruple their share of a local market in which the Government awards up to $20 million worth of work annually.
Don Demeritte, principal with the Bahamas’ Chapter of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants (CICMC), told Tribune Business that he was targeting a 15 percentage point increase in local professionals’ share of this market.
Estimating that up to 95 per cent of consultancy work issued in this nation was awarded to overseas firms, Mr Demeritte said the Chapter’s goal in trying to increase local market share to 20 per cent was to keep more dollars at home and boost the growth of Bahamian firms.
His comments came after he and three other Bahamians attended the region’s fifth Management Consulting Symposium, which was held between September 10-12 in Trinidad.
The conference brought together some 75 management consultants from the Caribbean, plus their counterparts from Europe, South America and Africa. Among the issues discussed were creating a register of local consultants in each Caribbean nation, including the Bahamas, and developing industry standards for the profession across the region.
“Ninety-five per cent of the consulting dollars go out of this country and the region as such,” Mr Demeritte told Tribune Business. “If we can try to increase our share to 15 per cent, that would be a good start.
“I know for certain that in the Bahamas, the Government told me last year they estimated they spent $20 million on consulting fees. That’s quite a chunk. But the 5 per cent that remains, most of it goes to the larger firms.”
Mr Demeritte added that the consulting dollars which remained in the Bahamas were usually not evenly distributed, with most going to the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and Ernst & Young.
Coming out of the Trinidad meeting, he added, was the suggestion that independent Caribbean management consultants partner with each other for ‘strength in numbers’ when competing on bids.
“If I’m going for an engagement in the Bahamas, and trying to compete with KPMG, if I go in with a group of 20 regional-based consultants and do that successfully, I will be able to fight for that 95 per cent of consulting dollars,” Mr Demeritte told Tribune Business.
He also called on the Government to “really assist the cause” by ensuring that whenever it received an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan or grant funding that the contract stipulated “there has to be a role for the local consultant.
‘That has to be written into the Request for Proposal,” he added. “Once it is in the RFP, there will be no reversing it.”
Mr Demeritte said the Trinidad conference allowed the Bahamian and other Caribbean management consultants to speak one-on-one with their European counterparts about mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) and joint ventures, exploiting the potential benefits of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
With capacity building in the Caribbean industry a key focus, Mr Demeritte added: “We were able to deepen our network, and in so doing we have opportunities to get engagements in other countries in the region.
“We get more work, more play in other countries in the region. As such, the conference was a step in the right direction.”
With attendees gaining “an insight” into how to compete with large multinational firms, Mr Demeritte told Tribune Business: “We have been discussing for some time lobbying for legislation that creates a register of consultants. We have been discussing that throughout the CARICOM region, although we’ve not taken the steps we’d like to.”
Also discussed were establishing standards for management consultants throughout the region, so they were recognized by partners and counterparts.
Apart from Mr Demeritte, the other Bahamians present in Trinidad were PLP Senator Jerome Gomez; Dr Evaneth McPhee; and Nakia Brice.
The global market for management consulting services is estimated to be worth $350 billion.
“Management consulting can be considered to be a high value-added industry with a heavy export orientation, which has the potential to make a significant contribution to address [the] needs of the regional market, and provides many opportunities for our service providers,” said Senator Vasant Bharath, minister of trade, industry and investment for Trinidad & Tobago.