By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government was yesterday urged to address the capital needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them participate in its e-tendering system, amid calls to “swiftly” bring this on stream.
Mike Maura, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) chairman, said “well over 50 per cent” of all licensed businesses in the Bahamas are SMEs. “The fact that SMEs represent the largest share of businesses operating in the Bahamas highlights the untapped economic potential that SMEs offer,” he said. “If we unleash our SMEs, the economic impact would be profound and exponential.”
Speaking at a press conference on the revised Public Procurement Bill, and launch of the Government’s electronic system to purchase goods and services, Mr Maura added: “One to the greatest challenges facing SMEs is access to capital.
“If SMEs are to become active and valued participants in the Government’s e-tendering system, then government must address SMEs’ capital needs. Any reputable supplier registration system will require the applicant to provide financial details and evidence of their capacity to deliver and perform. The government is therefore encouraged to support qualified, licensed and vetted SMEs by facilitating access to funding alternatives.”
Edison Sumner, the Chamber’s chief executive, added that the initiative will create increased opportunities for SMES as well as the whole private sector.
“Time is not oo our side. We have to move expeditiously to get things done and this is one of them,” said Mr Sumner.
Matt Albury, executive director of the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), praised the Government for taking steps to improve the public procurement process, calling it a “concrete step forward”.
He added that there were a number of ‘complimentary initiatives’ that the Government also needs to look at, such as the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act and an independent Integrity Commission. K Peter Turnquest, the Deputy Prime Minister, said enactment of the Public Procurement Bill 2018 is scheduled for early in the New Year, and will strengthen the regulatory framework around government tendering.
“Through these reforms the Government is also providing increased opportunity for small and medium-sized Bahamian businesses to participate in national procurement initiatives, which is supportive for their growth and the invaluable role they play in job creation,” said Mr Turnquest.
He added that the Minnis administration was taking steps to address the capital needs of SMEs, pointing to the Fresh Start and Jump Start grant initiative on Grand Bahama, and the small business development centre that is expected to launch soon.