July 25, 2017
Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Hon. Kwasi Thompson visited Washington D.C. this past Friday where he addressed participants in a Small Business Development Center Study Tour, sponsored by The Organization of American States.
Addressing participants from throughout the Caribbean, OAS officials and others, the Minister said he was pleased to represent The Bahamas at the event and that it was particularly important for him to see the implementation of the program in The Bahamas and especially on the island of Grand Bahama.
He told the assembly that the current administration is focused on small business assistance and that development of the program will help to fulfill that commitment.
Minister Thompson also recalled that it was only a few short months ago that The Bahamas signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the OAS to become part of the cooperation programme being offered through the United States Permanent Mission to the OAS in conjunction with the University of Texas in San Antonio.
“The Bahamas is an active member of the OAS in all areas and particularly in the affairs of the Secretariat for Integral Development,” he told the gathering.
Further, he informed that The Bahamas has a small and open economy, primarily driven by two sectors, tourism and financial services, with tourism being the dominant sector contributing better than 45% of the country’s gross domestic product.
The Grand Bahama Minister advised that while most economic activities are concentrated on the country’s most populated island, New Providence, that Grand Bahama, the second most populated island hosts one of the first free ports in the world, a special economic zone.
He also stressed that the island is home to one of the largest container shipping facilities on the eastern seaboard with the capacity to service approximately 1.5 million twenty-foot container units a year including the capacity to service 750 refrigerated units.
Also, that the island is home of the Grand Bahama Shipyard, one of the largest centers for dry-docking and afloat services for repairs, refit, refurbishment and revitalization.
The Minister also advised that our government recognizes that in order to accelerate the country’s economic growth, steps need to be taken to further develop an environment which focuses on competitiveness, ease of doing business and macroeconomic stability.
“My Government also recognizes that the growth and expansion of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises or MSMEs is key to the country’s growth success and we are creating an environment which encourages innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit of the people.
“To be successful, this will take a coordinated approach targeted at addressing the needs of the MSME sector of the economy,” he said.
Continuing, he informed that to stimulate the growth of MSMEs, previous governments had established agencies targeted at supporting the development of those enterprises.
Some of the key agencies according to Mr. Thompson included the Bahamas Agricultural & Industrial Corporation, the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Capital Fund and the Bahamas Development Bank.
He also informed that representatives from those agencies had traveled to Washington for the event also.
“The aim of these agencies is to encourage the creation, expansion and promotion of SMEs through the provision of business incubation support services, resources such as industrial land at concessionary rates, access to development funding, access to buyers’ market and the provision of monitoring and evaluation services for small businesses,” he said.
Mr. Thompson was also keen on pointing out that “although our Government has only been in office for approximate two months, I am pleased that our Government has agreed to continue the important process of establishing two Small Business Development Centers with support of the US Permanent Mission to the OAS, to better coordinate the efforts of existing agencies which support SME development.
“The creation of such centers was a key recommendation of the country’s National Development Plan. The Centers will also develop a framework that will help to increase collaboration and networking between SMEs.
“Our plan calls for the Small Business Development Centers to be based at two campuses of the University of The Bahamas in New Providence and Grand Bahama and comprised of a team of professionals from a variety of sectors namely, the public sector, academia, agencies responsible for small business development and the Chamber of Commerce,” he stated.
According to the Minister the Center will have the advantage of accessing a cadre of qualified faculty and global network of resources aimed at small business growth.
He said that members of the team have in the past several months been engaged in active dialogue and training with personnel from the Small Business Development Center of the University of Texas.
“We are pleased that the team has already developed a Strategic and Operational Plan which will be implemented in both Grand Bahama and New Providence before the end of 2017 and will be subsequently launched in our Family Islands in the near future.
“The plan includes the organizational structure of the Center and the roles and responsibilities of key personnel. Once fully implemented it is our vision that the Center will be the leading driver of economic growth for small businesses by empowering entrepreneurial development throughout The Bahamas.
“We anticipate that the Small Business Development Centre Model that The Bahamas will be implementing over the next few months will not only grow and expand SMEs, but will also create further opportunities for partnerships between domestic and international businesses, attracting more investment into the country,” he said.
G.B. MINISTER – The Hon. Kwasi Thompson is pictured with OAS Assistant Secretary General (left) and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro(right) while participating in a Small Business Development Center Study Tour, sponsored by the OAS in Washington D.C. on Friday past. Also pictured next to Minister Thompson, is Minister Lindsey Grant (St Lucia).
By Simon Lewis
Bahamas Information Services