#Nassau, January 29, 2019 – Bahamas – Economic growth must be inclusive and must be felt all across the country for all Bahamians, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis said on Monday in his first Report to the Nation for 2019.
The Report, the first of three to be delivered by the Prime Minster over the next few weeks, outlined what the government is doing to boost economic growth, help create jobs and provide greater opportunity for all Bahamians.
“Expanding our economy is key to economic growth,” said Prime Minister Minnis. “I fully understand the economic anxieties of so many Bahamians.”
The Bahamas Investment Authority will be restructured to include a promotional arm, which will be used to increase Bahamian and international partnerships and foreign direct investment.
“This promotional arm will be critical for economic expansion and growth,” said Prime Minister Minnis. “It will facilitate investment promotion tours with participation of both private and public stakeholders.”
Since mid-2017, the government has approved an estimated $3.7 billion in foreign investment projects, said the Prime Minister. He noted that many of the projects, once approved, immediately contract Bahamian firms for legal, accounting, project management, engineering, environmental, architectural, consulting and other professional services.
Another key element in growing the economy is to do much more to help Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses, said Prime Minister Minnis.
The government has committed to invest $25 million toward small business support over five years. The recently launched Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) is up and running and so far, approximately 500 Bahamian entrepreneurs have had consultation or participated in seminars through the centre, said the Prime Minister.
For this fiscal year, the government has pledged support in $5.5 million for loans, grants and equity injections into Bahamian small businesses. Together with private sector partners, the total level of support will come to just under $7 million in funding directly to Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Of this amount, $450,000 will be spent to provide grants to young underprivileged Bahamians from throughout the country, from poor neighborhoods and poor families – to support their business aspirations. So far through the SBDC, seven companies have been approved for funding to either begin or to expand their businesses for a collective total of $1.5 million, with more credit to be extended.
“Once these small businesses are provided with capital, they can contribute to the fabric of the economy by providing new businesses by Bahamian entrepreneurs and jobs for Bahamians,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
The government has also committed to enhanced training for aspiring entrepreneurs through the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) and the University of The Bahamas (UB), he said.
The ‘Be Your Own Boss’ (BYOB) Scholarship offers $1,000 in tuition support to students between the ages of 18 and 25, who will enroll full time in preparatory, certificate, diploma and associate degree programs, which will train them with the necessary technical and vocational skills to start a business or secure employment.
“Equipping our students with these types of opportunities will create both jobs and products to help grow the economy. We anticipate expanding this initiative in the upcoming budget,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
To help new business startups, the Ministry of Finance recently announced the roll out of a provisional business license implemented by the Department of Inland Revenue. The provisional license allows individuals wishing to start a new low-risk business to do so in five days or less.
Once granted the provisional license, which will be valid for 90 days, businesses will be allowed to be up and running, while they work to complete the full business license process by obtaining all the necessary documents for completion.
The fee for starting a new business has also been waived, and the application process has been consolidated through one application through the Department of Inland Revenue.
Prime Minister Minnis said he has also pressed his ministers to address the unacceptable amount of time it takes for Bahamians and foreigners alike to open a bank account. He acknowledged the importance of the ‘Know Your Customer’ Rules, but said it was just as important that Bahamians be able to go to a bank and open an account with little hassle, once they have the proper identification.
“Instead of finding excuses as to why it cannot happen, I want the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, the commercial banks and the private sector to tell me how it will happen,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
The Prime Minister said that while the country is making economic progress and the economy is growing there is still much work to do to boost jobs, especially among young Bahamians.
“We must expand even more, and do all we can to secure our middle class and to move more Bahamians out of poverty,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
Release: Office of the Prime Minister