Government to ‘respond aggressively’ to Ease of Doing Business Committee recommendations

Prime Minister Minnis, centre, at Bahamas Business Outlook on Thursday, with, from left: Writer Patricia Glinton-Meicholas; Baha Mar President Graeme Davis; The Counsellors Ltd. President Joan Albury; and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.  (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)

By Matt Maura, Bahamas Information Services

NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Government of The Bahamas will “respond aggressively” to recommendations made by the Ease of Doing Business Committee in an effort to address the global outlook on ease of doing business in The Bahamas.

The ‘Ease of Doing Business’ Committee was appointed last year by Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis after a 2017 World Bank Annual Report listed The Bahamas as 119 out of 190 countries for ease of doing business.

Economies are ranked from 1-190 on their ease of doing business with one being the best possible rating and 190 the worst. The Bahamas was also ranked 108 out of the 190 countries with regards to starting a new business.

The Committee used the 10 categories established by the World Bank to make recommendations to the Government.

“Having been a businessman for many years, I know the frustration that business owners feel in complying with certain government processes,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “I wish to assure the Bahamian people and the Committee that the Government will respond aggressively to the recommendations, including making the necessary legislative and regulatory changes.”

Addressing the annual Bahamas Business Outlook Seminar last Thursday, Prime Minister Minnis said while The Bahamas was “clearly better” than a number of countries in the Ease of Doing Business rankings, “there is considerable and urgent room for improvement across the board, especially if we seek to be world class.”

The Prime Minister detailed additional rankings for the country contained in the June 2017 Report. In terms of dealing with construction permits, The Bahamas was ranked at 106. Dealing with construction permits involves the procedures, time and cost to build a warehouse.

The Bahamas ranked 117 in obtaining electricity (this involves the procedures, time and cost required for a business to obtain a permanent electricity connection for a newly constructed warehouse).

For registering property, the country was ranked 167, a designation the Prime Minister called “a terrible ranking.” Registering property concerns procedures and the time and cost to register commercial real estate.

The country was ranked 142 out of the 190 countries insofar as obtaining credit was concerned and was ranked 55th for paying taxes and 74th for enforcing contracts.

Prime Minister Minnis said the use of paper confirmation and written certifications from applicants during the application process for various licenses and permits in The Bahamas – including original paper confirmations to demonstrate that applicants have paid their taxes to other government agencies or have complied with certain requirements of other government agencies — has in the past consumed a significant amount of time and often comprises an inefficient burden for applicants as well as those government agencies that have to sort through volumes of documents created.

Using the Business License application process as an example, Prime Minister Minnis said an idea for reform is for government ministries to instruct their agencies, departments and employees to review their license and permit application processes in order to eliminate, wherever possible, the paper confirmation and certification requirements from other government agencies and substitute the same with direct agency to agency contact to acquire the information.

“The enhancement of E-government systems could make this an efficient technology-driven process for the government,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “It is easier for a government employee to obtain confirmations from another government employee by an internally agreed-upon method, than for the private sector to collect numerous paper confirmations from the front desks of various government agencies.”