By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Prime Minister yesterday admitted The Bahamas needs to make faster and greater progress in improving its "ease of doing business", reiterating that new measures will be adopted in 2019.
Delivering the keynote address at the Securities Commission's public companies forum, Dr Hubert Minnis promised the private sector would soon see and feel the benefits from the Government's efforts to improve The Bahamas' 118th ranking in the World Bank's "ease of doing business" index.
He said: "We remain concerned about our rating and rank on such lists, as they impact how foreign investors perceive the jurisdiction. The Government's ease of doing business committee has proposed a suite of recommendations across the metrics to introduce real reform in the regulatory environment.
"We have made some progress to-date, but we need to make even greater progress in a timelier manner. Businesses can expect to start experiencing even greater progress as we look to start adopting key measures in the New Year."
This nation has improved by just three places in the World Bank's "ease of doing business" ranking over the past two years. KP Turnquest, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, this week said an inter-agency government working group was aiming "to see at least a 15 percent increase over the next few years".
Dr Minnis yesterday described the "deepening and broadening" of the Bahamian economy as "critical". "We must be resolved to improve investor confidence and the use of the markets by public companies if we are to harness the transformative economic potential latent in Bahamian businesses and investors. Job-creation, strengthening the Bahamian economy, and improving the environment for business are top priorities for my administration," said Dr Minnis.
He added: "Today, there are positive indications that the country is 'turning the corner' economically. The IMF recently projected real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.3 percent for 2018, and 2.1 percent for 2019. These projections are encouraging.
"Still, there is an immense amount of ground to make up, particularly following such a long period of economic decline following the great recession of 2008. While the Government has a pivotal role to play, the full response to boosting employment cannot rest solely on the Government. Viable, sustainable private businesses must truly be the drivers of the Bahamian economy. The Government's duty is to create an environment inviting to businesses and entrepreneurs. The Government is fully committed to improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas."
Pointing to the creation of the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centr (SBDC), which is a partnership between the Ministry of Finance, University of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, Dr Minnis said the Government has allocated $25m to supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
"The immense response from entrepreneurs to the SBDC, with over 600 people signed up in August, and consulting appointments into next year - underscores how important and necessary this type of support is to young entrepreneurs," Dr Minnis said.
"Access to capital is a perennial issue with micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. The Securities Commission has spent a considerable amount of time contemplating how entrepreneurs can, in a cost-effective manner, and with minimal 'red tape', gain access to much needed capital to fund their ventures."