By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive yesterday said he was “alarmed” that this nation led the Caribbean when it came to gun crimes committed against businesses.
Edison Sumner, speaking after Tribune Business revealed the findings of a recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study, said: “I’ll say that the numbers were alarming to me, and I would say that it was to other members of the Chamber as well, because we had no idea that the rate of violent crime against the business community, with the use of firearms, was so high.
“I think that the reason we do not know that it is as high as has been reported by the IDB is because businesses are generally a bit reserved about reporting crime against their businesses with the use of firearms, and especially when there has been theft of cash from their premises, because businesses generally don’t want the public to know what kind of cash they have on hand or that there is any vulnerabilities in their business.”
The IDB study revealed that more than 20 per cent of crime-hit local businesses have been victimised by gun-toting armed robbers.
“The use of guns was highest in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago,” the IDB report, ‘Restoring Paradise in the Caribbean’, said, adding that the use of guns in those countries exceeded the average 16 per cent.
The report also found that knives were used against 15 per cent of victimised Bahamian companies, with a similar percentage reporting that ‘other’ weapons were used.
Added up, this means that 50 per cent of crime-hit firms in this nation were attacked by criminals wielding weapons.
The IDB report found that around 23 per cent of Bahamian companies were impacted by crimes such as internal theft, vandalism, robbery or arson in the past year, placing this nation in line with the Caribbean average.
Mr Sumner said that the Chamber was looking forward to working with the new government and its minister of national security, Marvin Dames, a former chairperson of the BCCEC’s Crime Prevention Committee.
“We believe that he has an acute understanding and awareness of the risks that are facing not only the country and citizens at large, but what are going to be some of the specific issues impacting the business community as well,” Mr Sumner added.
“At the Chamber we take the issue of crime very seriously, which is why we have moved the issue of crime management directly under the executive branch of the Chamber so that it gets the attention that it needs at the highest level.”
The IDB report revealed: “The country that emerges as having the highest amount of crime-related costs is the Bahamas, where our lower-bound estimate for 2013 indicates that those costs represent about 3.09 per cent of the country’s GDP. The upper-bound estimate is 4.8 per cent.”
The study thus placed crime’s total cost for the Bahamian economy and society at between $268.31 million to $408.62 per annum, inclusive of government, private sector and social costs.
The IDB report said the costs were shared equally between the Government and private sector, standing at between $98.9 million and $167.15 million for the former, and $84.39 million and $161.39 million for the business community.
These figures represent funds that could have been invested by companies in job-creating investments and expansions, or used by the Government to improve health and education.