NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamian economy will be able to bounce back faster from the COVID-19 fallout if the business community takes advantage of the various relief offers and ‘pays it forward’, according to a local financial executive.
Robert Pantry, founder and chief executive of Simplified Lending said: “I would encourage the business community to help the economy absorb the shock. It can help us bounce back quicker.”
Simplified Lending is one of several lending institutions participating in the $20 million Small Business Continuity Loan Program being offered through the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC).
Pantry said the lender has seen an overwhelming demand for financial assistance through the initiative.
He continued: “The Central Bank, the financial institutions and the government have already taken steps to absorb the shock. Now is the time for everyone to be proactive and pay it forward. It’s very important that all businesses pay it forward. That will allow the economy to absorb the shock.”
“For us we waived all loan payments for the next several months. We didn’t wait for people to come forward. It’s going to make a big difference when you look at the multiplier effect. That will help to keep critical functions going until this situation has passed.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest told Parliament on Monday that nearly $15 million has already been formally requested through the program which was just launched last week.
The program is designed to provide loans to small businesses, ranging from $5,000 to $300,000. Approved loans will have a payment grace period of four months.
As of Friday last week, 616 micro, small and medium sized businesses (MSMEs) registered for assistance with the SBDC, according to Turnquest. Among that group, 382 businesses had completed the full application process.
“There has been an overwhelming demand for the assistance. I think that for the most part people are concerned about their employees. They want to retain their employees and are concerned about not having revenue at this time,” said Pantry.
“A lot of people are for certainty and stability in their cash flow until this situation turns around. You have to think about the multiplier effect. A tour boat operator for instance may have four employees but when they get paid they are going to spend with four to six different businesses. That multiplier effect and keeping people employed is very critical.”
According to Pantry, once an application is made and all the know your customer (KYC) and lending requirements are met, approval is usually given within 48 hours and funds are disbursed 48 hours thereafter.
“The government designed it to be as efficient as possible without compromising the process. We follow our normal due diligence,” said Pantry.