Minister Thompson at OAS

Minister of State for G.B 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 G.B. 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.


Speaking culturally

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Hon. Michael Pintard said the Government of The Bahamas has made the decision to ensure that the focus on culture has to be National in nature – the reason being that in the past far too many aspects of culture have been New Providence-centered. “The goal,” added Minister Pintard, “is to make sure that all of the Directors from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture are visible and active throughout The Bahamas.” It was one in a series of meetings held by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to meet with all leaders on Grand Bahama in each respective area of the Ministry and not only assist them in their endeavors, but also allow them to give their input and throw out creative ideas. The meeting with Cultural leaders in Grand Bahama was held at Bishop Michael Eldon School auditorium on Saturday, July 15, 2017. Leaders and participants in every aspect of culture attended the meeting, including artisans, Junkanoo leaders, drama and dance performers. Minister Pintard reminded those in attendance that it is his hope that the cultural community would do what it is designed to do -- cement the Bahamian identity, as the cultural community, like glue holds all other things in the country together. “In most countries, the fastest growing segment of the national economy is the creative industry, which includes all the genres of art that are represented here today, sports and media,” said Minister Pintard. “Those are the areas that are rapidly growing, multi, trillion dollar industries around the world. “The Bahamas is one of those developing countries that have not yet gotten the memo. So, we have to change that. We in the Ministry of Culture have made a commitment to form a firm partnership with you. “You have in all of us in the Ministry, strong advocates who understand the value of culture. So, you can expect that we will be attentive to the concerns you will have. But we need your help.”

Minister Pintard told cultural leaders and practitioners that they can do their part by properly registering their respective “not-for-profit” organizations with the Government of The Bahamas. To assist with the process and to lend a hand, Minister Pintard said that the Government was willing to pay half of what it cost to have each organization registered. “Half-way for us means that we are prepared to bring in house two attorneys who will sit in a room with those of you who have paper work completed to assist you in getting incorporated,” the Minister pointed out.“This will dramatically drive your cost down. Our goal is to make sure that all of you are properly registered, which will open up the doors for you to go out there and apply for funding for your product or your organization. Being registered will allow you to seek funding from overseas as well.” Minister Pintard said that it is important to monetize talent and aspects of culture. This, he said, means that the government is willing to work with those talented people who are producing things and shows that are culturally-based, which will allow those producers to get paid for their gifts and talents. “If you have a talent, and all of you in this room do, the question is whether or not you are content with doing it for fun or if you would like to see a profit from it? If you wish to use your talent in culture to generate income, we want to partner with you to make that happen. “So from the government stand point, you will find that over the course of the next several years more of the international trips taken, not just by culture and tourism, but by other government ministries will be including cultural artists or their products as a part of that delegation. “For instance, if we’re giving gifts overseas, we want them to buy gifts from Grand Bahama. If the G.B Port Authority is travelling on such trips, we want to increasingly ask them to include a Bahamian artist. This is the direction we would like to go in, but all of you have to play a role in branding yourselves, marketing yourselves and being registered.”


The Youth Zone


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