In response to recommendations by BHTA, the Chamber of Commerce, and others in recent years to consolidate and improve the various Government support services offered to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), the Government has drafted the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act. The Government and BHTA are inviting interested members to review the draft and present any thoughts or recommendations to us by Friday, April 12th.
In summary, the Bill is intended “to promote, support and facilitate the development of Bahamian entrepreneurship by providing financial services and business development support to or for the benefit of SME’s in all economic sectors throughout The Bahamas for the purpose of greater participation of the SME sector in economic growth” (section 3. (1) of the Bill). This quotation from the Bill is a very broad policy objective.
The idea is that the newly established Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDA) would become the primary SME development vehicle and be managed and directed by a private sector Board of Directors. It would bring many aspects of SME development under one public umbrella, intended to enhance the ability of The Bahamas Development Bank, BAIC, the Venture Capital Fund and all other public sector SME support programs to offer more relevant support to SME’s.
Public support for SME development in the past has been focused primarily on loan funding through the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB). BHTA’s review of SME needs through its Sustainable Tourism (STEMM) project several years ago analyzed the challenges facing SMEs and identified key areas where non-financial support is necessary as well to their viability. These needs and the importance of having a private sector directed and focused support mechanism in place helped to form the basis for recommendations which have been advanced to Government primarily by BHTA and Chamber representatives over the past four years.
BHTA recently convened a core review group of small hotel representatives who have worked on STEMM and related matters in recent years. The group has met with the Government’s representatives to review the draft legislation. Among their initial core recommendations are:
· Conceptual support for the legislation and establishment of SMEDA
· Placing greater emphasis within the legislation on providing the technical support essential to SME’s success, drawing upon the findings from BHTA’s STEMM project
· Creating Advisory groups to the Board within SMEDA’s organizational framework to allow for sub-sector input and engagement at a working level, advising on training, advocacy, business development and marketing support.
· Immediate appointment of the new SMEDA Board of Directors once the legislation is enacted rather than creating a transition Board with the existing Bahamas Development Bank Board. This is important, particularly given the strategic planning mandate of the Board for SMEDA in its early stages
· Ensuring one of the Board appointees has a finance background, so that perspective is always prevalent within SMEDA’s policy leadership
· Allowing for two appointments to the Board by the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association and Bahamas Out Islands Promotion Board, given the large percentage of SME representation by tourism-related businesses within the economy and the desire by policy-makers to broaden Bahamian business ownership within the tourism sector
We welcome additional feedback and invite you to do so and communicate your questions and recommendations to us by Friday, April 12, 2013.
Consultative document (SMEDA bill) BHTA version (70 KB pdf)
SMEDA Bill Final Draft (164 KB pdf)