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News Article
Bishop: Yield to God

During a church service celebrating the Diamond Jubilee anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II, attendees were reminded that all people are called to serve, and that in order for this service to reach its full potential, they have to let go, and throw themselves into the arms of God. This means that all people must yield to God.
On the second Sunday of Lent at Morning Prayer, at Christ Church Cathedral, attended by Prince Harry of Wales, Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd encouraged people not to think only in terms of themselves, but in terms of God and what they can be through God.
"Like a child standing on the side of a pool whose parent stands in the pool and says jump, and because that child trusts mom and dad, he will jump into those arms that they trust and can rely on. Paul's verse challenges us not to think only in terms of ourselves, but in terms of God and what we can be through God. Yield yourselves unto God as people who have been brought from death into life," said Bishop Boyd.
He encouraged people to not let their baser nature and baser elements of sin and death control them. As the reality of human frailty means that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that they have a shallow side, can be negative, and have a tendency to gravitate towards what is bad.
But the head of the Anglican Diocese in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands said that everyone has a certain amount of power and influence over others and that they need to use that power to do what is right, and produce the right actions that benefit the home, the family, the work place, the school, the community, the country and the world.
But it's something he said that isn't always easy to do because there is a war going on inside of people. He said it's a struggle to determine what is right, and that people then struggle to do what is right. Despite the reality, he encouraged people to press on and never give up, asking God to help them.
Bishop Boyd also reminded people that they have choices they can make, even though they may be bombarded from every side.
"The challenge is always to make the best choice, the right choice in big decisions and in small. Service is one such choice," he said. "Service is choosing willingly, and doing what we are called to do. It is sometimes easy for us human beings to make a commitment to serve at home in school, in the community for government and for country. Committing is one thing, but the real test, the real necessity is the execution of that commitment, the carrying out of that duty every day, every week, every month, every year, in good weather, in bad weather , whether I feel like it, or whether I don't feel like it, that is the challenge," he said.
As Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years of service, Bishop Boyd said the full impact of service could not be seen in one week or even in one year. He said it was not measured simply by the struggle that people have today, or the failure that they have tomorrow, or the falling down that happens next week. He said the full impact of service is measured by people's faithfulness, their perseverance. There dedication to the daily routine, to the weekly drudgery, to the trivial round of the common task. It is for this reason he said that the example of Queen Elizabeth II is valued.
"She has been diligent, faithful, unswerving, steadfast and sure in the execution of her duties and her availability to all who must call upon her. As monarch, she represents in so many ways, the image of leadership, stability, continuity, a link with the past and our heritage, [and] a link with the present and the life we now live, and a link with the future," he said.
Bishop Boyd said the monarchy is also a reminder of the foundations of the country's form of government. And that heads of state and national leaders carry tremendous responsibility.
"We joke about how leaders begin to look older, and how they turn gray quickly, but leaders carry tremendous responsibility. By virtue of holding the office and being the officer, a leader has already done a day's work, even before that leader goes to his or her desk or attends the first appointment of the day. We therefore have to hold up and pray for and encourage our leaders, and we thank God for the queen's model of service to the Commonwealth and to the world, and for all that she has represented," he said.
The Anglican chief said that oftentimes people take for granted the elements and characteristics of Bahamian society and its government. He said in most instances they forget that what they enjoy is a result of history, traditions and institutions like the monarchy, Parliament, senate, religion and government.
"Like Her Majesty, there are so many other leaders who serve in our two countries and the world who give of themselves, more than just the value of a day's wages. These persons give because they love God, because they love life and because they love what they do - because they want to serve, because they want to make a contribution. They accept the calling to which they have been called, and accept at this time, that there is a particular necessity laid upon them to play a specific role. Some leaders if they have the opportunity would choose a different lot, but they serve anyhow because they have no choice but to answer yes to God, yes to country, yes to school, to family, to community. Leaders answer yes because necessity is laid upon them and because they have no other choice but to serve," he said.
The religious leader offered words of encouragement to all people that serve in a leadership role. He said they should always pray and yield themselves to God, and that when all is said and done, and the dust has cleared, that it is really not about them.
"This is about God, about what God has done. About what God continues to do - and the grace that God gives us so that we can do what it is that we have been called to do. In order to offer oneself to God, one has to deny self and put that self into the hands of God. Often as human beings we see ourselves in terms of who we are, what we have done, what we have experienced, what we struggle with. We see ourselves in terms of our pains and wounds, our successes, our accomplishment, and all of these things are important because they form our identity; however on our human journey, we are called not to focus only upon ourselves, but to see ourselves in terms of what God has for us to be and what God calls us to," he said.
For people to reach their full maturity and potential, he said they must go beyond themselves.
"It is not about us. It is about God. Let us keep our eyes lifted high, look to higher ideals, higher standards, higher principals and look to the place where God first ordained for us to be. As we worship God and thank God for the contribution of Queen Elizabeth II and all that she means to us, let us also remember that we have been called to serve, and wherever we are called to give it, it will reach its full potential only if we let go of self, and throw ourselves into the arms of God. We thank God for the privilege of serving. We ask God by His grace to help us all to continue to serve without getting tired, and we pray that we would yield ourselves unto God as those who have been brought from death to life," he said.

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News Article
BTC launches new post-paid packages

A host of executives from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) descended on its head office yesterday to announce a consumer-friendly revamp to post-paid packages.
More talk time, more text messages and lower average rates will be applied to post-paid packages as of today. If you are a current post-paid customer, you are already seeing the benefit. The new offering, however, should raise a few eyebrows among the nearly 250,000 pre-paid mobile customers in The Bahamas.
The fee reduction is indeed targeted at driving more customers to post-paid.
That said, the CEO of BTC, Geoff Houston, told Guardian Business the primary goal is to strengthen consumer loyalty among the existing base.
"We are trying to reward the post-paid customers," he said.
"For me, if we have 47,000 post-paid customers today, and we have 47,000 next year, I'll be very happy. That says our customers are happy to be taking services from BTC. Obviously there is also an incremental opportunity of people moving over to post-paid, and I do think some customers will move over and save themselves some money."
The move to make BTC's prices more competitive arrives amid significant network upgrades, store openings and dozens of hirings. BTC has invested tens of millions of late in infrastructure, and as efficiency continues to improve, the company hopes to pass more savings onto Bahamians.
Houston said BTC is not waiting for competition to enter the market before making its services affordable and enticing. Executives estimate that competition in the mobile arena could only be a few months away.
In terms of prices compared to the region, the top executive said "some places are ahead of us, others are behind".
"When you roll it all back, some of our rates are more competitive in the region. So it just depends. Nobody is standing still. It's a competitive market right across the region," Houston told Guardian Business.
Under the new program, for example, customers looking for 120 minutes of talk time, plus 50 text messages per month, can now sign up for $20 per month. Consumers can receive 450 minutes and 150 text messages for $60, and 800 minutes and 250 text messages for $100.
According to the company, some post-paid cellular per minute rates have been sliced in half.
"We want to drive the right price, irrespective that there is no competition in our market today," the CEO added.
Marlon Johnson, BTC's vice president of brand and communications, said the same philosophy has been applied to corporate clients.
"The long and the short is we try to make it more affordable. There is a shared pool of minutes, and we're upping the number, and simplying the packages," he explained. "There are more buckets of minutes, more texting, and overall we want it to be more affordable and accessible."
Corporate rates start at $100 a month for two subscribers, giving you 1,300 minutes and 500 texts with $10 for each additional user.
The packages now "run the gambit" of up to 100 subscribers using 60,000 minutes for $2,600.
These plans replace EarthPac, Moon, Venus, and other existing corporate packages.

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News Article
Christie’s Great Estates Conference In Toronto

Branding was the conference theme that drew business principals
and owners from the Christie’s Great Estates network to Toronto this week. Affiliates, such as the affiliate for the Bahamas John Christie of HG Christie Ltd., previewed the network’s global expansion strategy, viewed the company’s new Web site to be rolled out publically by year’s end, and learned how to better utilize the resources of the parent company, Christie’s, to build business through art and real estate introductions.

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News Article
Delta resumes service from LaGuardia

The Bahamas should see more than 50,000 additional visitors this year, as Delta Airlines has reinstated its daily direct flight from LaGuardia Airport into Nassau.
The decision by Delta marks the return of an essential artery for tourism, according to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.
During Friday's inaugural flight, Vanderpool-Wallace pointed out that the Greater New York area is the single most important market for The Bahamas.
It was in March 2010 when Delta Airlines discontinued its service to Nassau from LaGuardia.
He reflected on the airline's past successes in the country and welcomed it back to The Bahamas.
"In the last full year which Delta flew directly to Nassau from LaGuardia, 189,911 passengers landed in The Bahamas from New York, making it the number one North American city from which visitors came to The Bahamas," Vanderpool-Wallace explained.
He added: "New York remains The Bahamas' top producer and certainly for Nassau and Paradise Island as most of those 190,000 passengers flew to Nassau/Paradise Island."
The new service into Nassau is expected to bring 1,000 additional seats on a weekly basis.
Delta's Specialty Sales General Manager Norma Dean told Guardian Business that based on the inaugural flights and early bookings,
this service is already looking strong and is on par with the airline's Atlanta service.
The flight can accommodate 155 passengers, 14 in first class and 141 in coach. Dean said the airline expects an 80 percent load factor, on average.
"Nassau lies within the 1,500 mile perimeter of New York. We are able to offer New Yorkers the paradise of an international destination and conversely offer Bahamian passengers the convenience of connecting to over 60 cities in the United States," she shared.
"In New York, you will see plans for major expansion underway. Delta is investing over $100 million in major infrastructure upgrade to that airport. By summer, we will have over 100 new flights and we are pleased to start the ball rolling with the Nassau, Bahamas flight."
Kerzner International (Bahamas) President and Managing Director George Markantonis noted this service is a win-win situation for all.
"For us, LaGuardia is huge. This brings in the section of the country that is 90 percent of the traffic into our businesses because the country's survival is based on the opportunities that are available for those people to get to Nassau and by extension the Family Islands," Markantonis said.
Baha Mar's President Don Robinson believes that airlift is a critical component to the success of the multi-billion-dollar project.
"I think in a few short years, when Baha Mar starts opening up and you start to see the brands of the Grand Hyatt, the Rosewood and the Morgan's, and the additional several thousand hotel rooms that will be coming online, airlift will be a critical component of that project," Robinson said.
The non-stop flight from LaGuardia into Nassau operates daily and began on March 2.

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News Article
SkyBahamas slams focus on foreign carriers

The CEO of SkyBahamas says the government is "destroying our domestic business" by supporting foreign airlines instead of helping domestic carriers expand and prosper in the region.
The senior executive pointed to the recent partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and the U.S.-owned Vision Airlines as the most recent example, which is commencing direct service into Freeport from various locations.
This public and private venture is allowing the foreign airline to offer rock-bottom prices, he said.
"The government is so focused on stop-over visitors that they're willing to go any price to get them here," said Randy Butler, CEO and president at SkyBahamas.
"SkyBahamas has been holding the fort as a local company and employs Bahamians. We deliver excellent service. Why weren't we considered for this? It's hindering the growth of local carriers."
According to the Vision Airlines website, guests booking between Nov 2, 2011 and Dec 19, 2011 can take advantage of $1 fares each way from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport, plus taxes and fees.
Direct service will also begin from a number of other U.S. cities, including Louisville, Baltimore, Richard and Raleigh, for just $29.
According to Peter Turnquest, the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Grand Bahama, the Grand Lucayan Bahamas Beach & Golf Resort is also working with the partnership, although he wasn't sure to what extent.
"As Chamber president, it will obviously be a good thing for us," he said.

"The airfare is so cheap, it gives us a real shot at attracting the South Florida market.  It's a direct flight so it takes away the hassle of gate changes.  It has the potential to be a benefit for the island, and in that respect, I'm quite happy."
He also confirmed that Vision Airlines is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism.
Calls to the Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, were not returned up until press time.
Going forward, Butler said he would like to see more consultation between the government and local carriers. He believed it was unfair for the public sector to be choosing foreign carriers before giving the local aviation scene a kick at the can.
Now, he added, SkyBahamas is challenging not only be regular airlines, but also ones that are aided by the government.
He pointed out that, in the past, the government also gave funds to Gulfstream International, which went bust in 2010 and has recently underwent a restructuring.
He said these grants have never been paid back, and yet the airline is currently buying planes to commerce operations once more.
"We must look at The Bahamas as a whole and for our people," Butler said.
"Local airlines need to be provided with more support for growth.  They don't understand these local airlines support the economy."

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News Article
Tourism probe intensifies

The Office of the Prime Minister has taken over an investigation relating to a lucrative tourism marketing contract that was awarded by and eventually canceled by the previous administration, according to Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
Wilchcombe said the government has also engaged the services of an accounting firm to look into the matter.
The foreign company that got the marketing contract was allegedly brought to the Ministry of Tourism by then Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, according to documents from the Ministry of Tourism.
According to the documents previously made public by The Nassau Guardian, Vanderpool-Wallace had become locked in a war with the most senior officials of the Ministry of Tourism over the contract.

The documents show that he ignored their advice to terminate the contract even though those senior officials determined that taxpayers were not getting value for money.
In the final days of the Ingraham administration, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) termed the matter a scandal and had questioned why then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham had not fired Vanderpool-Wallace from his Cabinet.
The ministry entered into the marketing contract with the American company in August 2010. The contract called for the ministry to pay the firm $1.65 million between September 2010 and June 2013.
The documents confirm that the company was already paid $825,000, plus out of pocket expenses, before the contract was finally terminated several weeks before the general election on the order of the Cabinet secretary.
"The investigation is under way. It's actually being handled from the Office of the Prime Minister. An accounting firm has been brought in to do it and some senior members [of the] Ministry of Finance who were a part of the government previously are also involved," Wilchcombe told The Nassau Guardian.
"We're trying to make sure that we have a forensic analysis of what took place and then in a couple of weeks we'll be able to talk about it. We're going through it meticulously to make sure we are aware of everything that took place and the reasons, of course.
"We have to pursue it very [carefully] because of course we're concerned that we're not just going to be saying something or doing something... We have to look at it very carefully; we have to understand what took place and so we're allowing the professionals to do an analysis and bring it back to us and we'll have to make it public."
Strained relations with the former minister and his staff became evident after Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Hyacinth Pratt became suspicious about whether the company would be able to live up to its end of the agreement.
The documents show that Vanderpool-Wallace met with the permanent secretary and the director general of tourism to discuss the matter of rescindment.
The minister at the time reportedly advised that the marketing firm be given a hearing, as it appeared the permanent secretary had "a vendetta" against the company.
Vanderpool-Wallace had also accused his director general of trying to "neutralize my attempt to install proper management of our marketing resources."

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News Article
Vanderpool-Wallace: AA bankruptcy will not affect service

Although senior aviation officials insist American Airline's recent filing for bankruptcy protection won't impact travel to The Bahamas, at least one local executive sees it as an opportunity for domestic airlines to take a greater role in travel to the Family Islands.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business that American Airlines filing for Chapter 11 is not at all unusual, as they were the last to hold out of all the trump carriers.
The restructuring, he said, will run its course with minimal disruption.
"We're fairly certain this is not going to affect us in any way," he said.
"We do not expect disruption to service from American Airlines or American Eagle."
On Tuesday, not only did American Airlines file for bankruptcy protection, but it also replaced its chief executive. The crux of the matter, according to reports, hinges on labor issues and the 88,000 employees at the company.  American Airlines has also assured the public there will be no disruption to its normal flight schedule.
As of Wednesday morning, American Airlines had seven flights leaving for Miami. The carrier does brisk business to The Bahamas, in addition to service through its subsidiary American Eagle to the Family Islands.
The president and CEO of Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), Stewart Steeves, echoed the sentiments of the Minister of Tourism, saying the filing for bankruptcy is meant to give the airline flexibility to cancel or change contracts as part of its restructuring.
American Airlines does not have a contract with Lynden Pindling International Airport, he noted, and instead pays fees on a flight-by-flight basis.
"I don't expect that they will scale back their flights," he told Guardian Business.
"We expect overall service to continue as they sort out their labor contracts."
But Randy Butler, the CEO of SkyBahamas, did not express quite so much optimism concerning American Airlines in The Bahamas. In particular, he felt American Eagle, the subsidiary flying to the Family Islands, could be first on the chopping block if cutbacks occurred down the road.
"This speaks further to why the government should support their national airlines and give them the right mandate," he explained.
"American Eagle is a service where we are connecting ourselves to the Family Islands. I think you might have more effect there than anything. How are we going to develop these islands?"
Butler felt it was an example of how local carriers could step up and not be at the mercy of swings among international companies.
With more than 122 locals employed with SkyBahamas, he said the local airlines must be more "empowered" and given more responsibility and incentives.

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News Article
NEW FLIGHT FROM CANADA ON THE WAY

By JAMMAL SMITH
Guardian Business Reporter
jammal@nasguard.com
Another Canadian airline could possibly be landing on Bahamian runways in the future with Guardian Business learning that the country is in negotiations with a flight carrier from Canada.
Air Transat could be the newest airline from Canada offering services to The Bahamas if an agreement is reached between the two countries. Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business that no final agreement has been reached yet, and several details must be ironed out before the deal is officially done.
"This is really only the opportunity for us to develop a partnership but we haven't finalized as yet,...

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News Article
Working together in the aviation industry

Dear Editor,
 
I wish to thank Hubert A. Ingraham, prime minister of The Bahamas, for acknowledging and being attentive to the concerns of pilots at Lynden Pindling International Airport.  Pilots are faced with many challenges daily.  As the founder of the Bahamian Pilots Alliance, my deep passion and dedication is focused on executing positive changes in my workplace (the airport and other airports within this chain of Bahama islands).
I also wish to express appreciation for the support of the Minister of Aviation Senator Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace for his help in changing the maximum hours my colleagues and I are allowed to be on duty and the sectors that can be flown.  We now work up to 10 flights or a maximum of 10 hours (which ever comes first).
About a year ago, the member of Parliament for Fox Hill, Fred Mitchell, heard our plea and reached out by attending our press conference.  His words were very encouraging and we are grateful for his support.
As my colleagues and I continue to provide superior service to our commuters who fly back and forth throughout The Bahamas on a daily basis, we are encouraged by the prayers and kind words of many.  We rely on the prayers of many, especially our family and close friends, as we take on the daring task of embracing the skies.  Thank you all for your commitments to keeping us loved, supported and "prayed-up".
We embark upon this new year, and we are all blessed to have jobs.  Although we have courage to skillfully carry out our duties (sometimes in stressful environments), our successes (as pilots) would be incomplete without the professional support of our cabin attendants, air-traffic controllers, mechanics, customs and immigration officers and all our other aviation-based teammates.  Daily we all face various challenges.  Thank you for your support.
It is time to take leadership of our Civil Aviation Department.  Based on comments and concerns, the department needs help.  We welcome the idea of bringing new inspectors on board.
The issue of hiring immigrants before considering an eligible Bahamian is still a concerning factor.  There is no reason why, in 2012, any airline in The Bahamas has to bring in and train any foreigners. There are many capable and qualified Bahamians who can fill these positions in aviation.  The concerns have been voiced and your expressions of concern are not going ignored.
Are pilots still being coerced to fly unsafely?  Yes, it is still happening - even today.  Do labor issues still exist?  Oh, yes!  Are tired pilots being asked to fly, tampering with logs, and are the regulations and the laws that govern us still blatantly being pushed aside?  There are laws and regulations that govern this country.  There are many concerns, but as united and committed professionals we will find a resolve.
I humbly ask every Bahamian pilot in The Bahamas to remember your professional decorum.  The time is here for us to change this industry and move ourselves upward to the next level.  Let us understand that there are investors in our country, and it is time that we seriously consider an urgent need to invest in ourselves.
We are 50 miles southeast of the world's largest economy.  We have a peaceful and stable democracy.   We have a tremendously beautiful climate - paradise!  Our friendly people and free lifestyle is inviting.  Best of all, as I look around at my colleagues, I see highly trained professionals.  We take control of our craft and our major concern is always the safety of our passengers and as well as an appreciation for our own lives.  We soar from destination to destination with a mantra of "safety first"!
I pray that the $50 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is spent on our local airline companies and not the non-locally owned companies that we compete with daily.
Finally, I wish to encourage our visitors to consider booking tickets on Flamingo Air, Lee Air, First-Class Charters, Dove Wings Charters, Regional Air, Abaco Air, Atlantic Blue Charters, Southern Air, Bahamasair and many others, and explore all that The Bahamas has to offer in its uniquely beautiful outer islands.  Consider all local aviators as you make plans to explore our islands.
We can and we will do it - take responsibility and leadership in our desired professions.  Many of us, since childhood, have dreamed of becoming pilots and we've accomplished our goal.  Now it is time to dream further.  I ask all Bahamian pilots who have not registered as yet for the Bahamian Pilot Alliance to join us.  Connect with us on Facebook or please contact us by email at lpiapilots@gmail.com.
We need your support as the elections draw near.  Just as the Free National Movement, the Democratic National Alliance and the Progressive Liberal Party are relying on your votes, the Bahamian Pilots Alliance is important and needs your support.  We will continue on our mission to ensure that your concerns are heard and regulations are put in place that will benefit all.  Continue to do your best.  Put safety first!  May God continue to grant us His favor and blessings.
 
- Captain Philip L. Armbrister
 
 

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News Article
Small business development

Dear Editor,
 
After my organization hosted the first Small Business Summit in 2009, it was evident that The Bahamas needed a national strategic plan for the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).  However, our country for 38 years, has had a flaw for not developing a practical strategic national plan for anything (crime, economic development, immigration, etc.).
Industry leaders from the professional and medical services; manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, wholesale merchandising and retail; construction, tourism, hospitality, commercial banks and government indicated during the 2009 Small Business Summit that an Act to developed the SME sector was far overdue.
As a result, a report was developed to identify how this SME could be formulated and implemented in an effective and efficient manner.  This report, Act As One: The Importance of Stakeholders' Collaborative Efforts When Developing the Small Business Act of The Bahamas, can be viewed at http://www.markturnquestconsulting.com/Entrepreneurship.html.  After consulting with the government, I applaud the Ministry of Finance team for creating the political will to develop the Bahamas SME Development Act and to create a new strategic framework to enhance the productivity level of the sector.
However, there were too many questionable decisions in 2010 on how to perform infrastructural development (mainly the road improvement works) and what formula of tax increases to apply on import duties.  I hope that these two decisions will not reduce the effectiveness of the SME Development Act in the future.  In 2010, the main focus to stimulate the SME sector should have been to provide incentives and concessions to mitigate the impact of the recession. There was a small window of opportunity to 'stop the bleeding' and it was not taken advantage of; hence, I witnessed hundreds of SME failures and the death of many entrepreneurial dreams.  Governments must realize that sometimes negative effects of policy decisions without proper consultations are sometimes irreversible.
My main concern with the formulation process so far is that there has been limited participation by the Act's main stakeholders - SMEs.  If this had occurred, then the $7,500 Jump Start Program (grant funding) would not have been given a green light. The grant is not enough and other sources of funding are required by local and international financial institutions to be pooled together to benefit new and existing SMEs.
Other concerns are as follows:
o There should be town meetings with the wider SME community in order to gather information about the major problems and opportunities facing the sector;
o In addition, there needs to be more industry-specific (construction, agriculture, merchandising, hospitality, manufacturing, technical services, tourism, hospitality, fashion design, etc.) discussions, so that local and international issues that affect individual industries could be addressed in the Act.
The formulation process of the SME Development Act needs to be evaluated and corrective measures should take place.  I am aware that there were consultations with the Inter-American Development Bank, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and a few others, but this is not an effective way to develop such an important Act.  There needs to be 'inter-stakeholder synergy'; this means that more trade organizations, banks, industry leaders and especially SME owners should be involved in the formulation process before the Act is debated in Parliament.
This inter-stakeholder synergy between the government, NGOs, trade associations, financial institutions, industry leaders and SME owners would align resources and capabilities to craft a SME Act that is meaningful to the sector.  Although this Act should not precede a strategic national plan for SME development, it is a good start because our SME sector is lagging behind in competitiveness, globally.
The main policies that must be adapted by key stakeholders when diligently transforming the Act from formulation to implementation are as follows:
 
Government
I. Ensure that possible amalgamation of Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation (BAIC), Bahamas Development Bank and Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund focuses on leveraging the strengths and correcting the weaknesses of the organizations;
II. The new SME development framework that is being developed must be structured to eliminate financial and non-financial decision making based on political influences.  This is the main reason why the Bahamas Development Bank is near bankruptcy;
III. Focus on Family Island development but keep the natural heritage and cultural resources of each island;
IV. Reduce the barriers that make it almost impossible for SMEs to access international funding;
V. Promote and encourage e-commerce activities and remove policies that make opening on-line merchant accounts very difficult;
VI. Adapt public policy tools to SME needs - especially facilitating SME participation in the public procurement process;
VII. Consider creating a Ministry or Department of Commerce to protect the SME sector from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and to develop strategies to improve on its five percent contribution to gross domestic product.
 
Commercial banks
I. Partner with government and international leading institutions to develop comprehensive SME funding scheme (SFS) so that more financial support can be extended to SMEs;
II. The $7,500 grant that is currently being offered to a few SMEs by the government could be used as a down payment so that local and international banks, and private investors could give more meaningful funding in order to prevent business failure due to undercapitalization;
III. Focus on packaging loans extended to SMEs that have built-in accounting management, human resources and marketing support programs at an affordable cost for at least a year.
 
The Bahamas Chamber Of Commerce and Employers Confederation
I. Focus on providing new SMEs with more market information about various industries.  The organization should partner with the College of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank to perform more market research on the economy of The Bahamas;
II. Become more visible in the SME market (over-the-hill) and remove the perception that the organization only focuses on big businesses;
III. Encourage professional and trade associations and SMEs to become more knowledgeable about the pros and cons of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
 
SMEs
I. SMEs must be committed to acting in a socially responsible manner (paying business licenses, NIB, correct custom duties, etc.);
II. SMEs must become knowledgeable about all aspects of their business model (operations, marketing, accounting/finance, human resources, etc.);
III. All SMEs must have sound marketing, management, human resource and accounting systems.  SMEs must invest in the Quickbooks Accounting Software; it is an invaluable tool for businesses.
 
The Bahamian consumer
At the heart of the new Act, there should be the conviction that achieving the best possible framework conditions for SMEs depends first and foremost on society's recognition of entrepreneurs.
Bahamian consumers must support the implementation of the new Act and SME framework to buy authentic Bahamian made products and discourage criminal activities that would negatively affect local SMEs.  The Bahamian consumers should understand that vibrant SMEs will make The Bahamas more robust to stand against the uncertainty of business cycles (especially recessions and depressions).
Finally, framers of the initial draft of the Act must consider the following important matters:
I. Ensure that presidents of trade and professionals associations clearly identify problems that their members are experiencing from local regulations and international competitors;
II. Build in major incentives in the Act for entrepreneurial ventures that create innovative products, delivery systems, operational structures and marketing strategies in filmmaking, fashion design, e-commerce, information technology, agriculture, manufacturing, education, software development, art and handicraft;
III. Create added concessions to protect 'socially responsible' SMEs that employ over 25 Bahamians during future recessions;
IV. Provide special assistance to local SMEs that focuses highly on exporting authentic Bahamian products and creative services;
V. Provide regulatory policies to protect the management consultancy sector from unfair and unethical practices that are performed by international service providers.
I hope that the initial draft of SME Development Act is brought to the business community.  The government must host a series of town meetings and workshops so that all aspects of this Act could be diligently crafted.  My advice to the government is not to dilute the process, but have adequate consultation with SME owners and not to force this Act down the throats of SME owners.  The government must understand that this is an important Act and not to delay communicating the contents of it to SMEs throughout The Bahamas.
In addition, members of Parliament must become more involved in the formulation of the Act.  They should immediately host meetings and obtain information about the challenges and other issues that SMEs are experiencing in their constituencies.  This is important so that they (MPs) can have intellectual debates when discussing this Act in the House of Assembly.
I would like for SMEs to contact me so that we can ensure that this Act is diligently formulated and implemented.  To contact me call 326-6748/427-3640 or log on to www.markturnquestconsulting.com.
 
- Mark A. Turnquest

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