The Bahamas Development Bank will reopen its doors to the public on Monday, the 8 June, 2020 with a different culture. Over the last 20 months, BDB has achieved dramatic improvements in its operations and was tested in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NAL rate has been slashed from 76% to 24% as the bank focused on restructuring and “mopping up” legacy challenges around standard operating procedures, human capital and information technology platform. Mr. Smith noted that embracing a “Balanced Scorecard Approach” which aligns decision making related to financing, customer, internal process, learning and growth with vision and strategy yields results.
The end result of this approach is a Bahamas Development Bank with improved operational efficiency, corporate governance structure, risk management, accountability and service. While The Bahamas Development Bank is a 40-year-old State Owned Enterprise, it is obliged to operate in the most efficient manner as it delivers on its statutory mandate to:
• promote industrial, agricultural and commercial development in The Bahamas through the financing of or the investing in approved enterprises;
• encourage the participation in approved enterprises by citizens of The Bahamas; and
• promote and enhance the economic development of The Bahamas.
BDB is not just a bank but the Bahamas’ National Development Bank and it is “in step” with the government’s efforts in counter-cyclical finance through the MSME Business Continuity Programme. To date BDB has approved $2,865,319 in loans and $181,077 in grants to meet the need of MSMEs during this unprecedented period of economic challenges imposed by COVID-19.
This effort to sure-up employment and facilitate business continuity continues. While the BDB Act, 1974 is somewhat dated, its original focus on BDB as a catalyst for economic development and assisting Bahamian ownership is still relevant. BDB is pivoting after 40 years of primarily extending credit and is pursuing its full mandate under the BDB Act, 1974 in an energized way. The Bank is focused on encouraging innovation and structural transformation in the Orange, Green, and Blue Economies in a manner that is empowering and inclusive for all Bahamians.
The Bank has several Sectoral Development Projects that combine financing, technical assistance, and policy advocacy at various stages of execution. These projects go beyond MSME financing to address structural challenges that prevent industry development such as lack of supporting infrastructure, market access or technical capacity. BDB’s focus on subsectors that have enormous potential for meeting domestic demand is an important step to providing high-quality jobs and business ownership in renewable energy, beekeeping, poultry and small ruminants.
BDB is also actively working to mainstream environmental sustainability and climate change considerations into all projects as a matter of best practice while repositioning itself and is best placed to access soft and or blended financing, technical support and grants from agencies such as European Investment Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, Caribbean Development Export Agency, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, etc. ultimately reducing capital calls on the government via annual subventions. However, addressing BDB’s historic underfunding or negative capital position is a critically important next step to facilitate the aforementioned access.
As the country moves into the “new normal”, BDB is engaging with stakeholders more than ever with MOUs either in place or planned with the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Technical Institute and The Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation and other synergistic partners. These collaborative arrangements are expected to improve inter-agency communication and collaboration to support economic development and rationalize cost savings through consolidation of synergistic activities.
For the Bahamian entrepreneur or individual already in business, BDB’s structural changes, focus on economic development, import reduction, export enhancement, economic inclusion coupled with affordable financing creates the right climate for Bahamian optimism and a more resilient economy across the entire archipelago.