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DPM criticizes culture of protectionism within certain sectors

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

If The Bahamas is to become competitive in business globally, the culture of protectionism within certain sectors will have to be re-examined, as new Bahamian businesses make way for game-changing innovations in traditionally closely-held sectors, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said on Wednesday.

Answering questions from the media following a press conference to announce additional funding for Bahamian entrepreneurs, Turnquest said the government is not “naive enough” to think that the traditional monopolies that exist in The Bahamas will change overnight, but he contended that as more entrepreneurs introduce new cutting-edge ideas and technology, the old guard gatekeepers will have to make way for those products.

Over the past two to three years Bahamians have tried to develop a local ridesharing product similar to Uber and Lyft, while utilizing private drivers to pick up passengers. But those local companies have had little success due to the stranglehold taxis have on that aspect of the transportation sector, and their influence in politics. Turnquest argued on Wednesday that the need for the country to remain relevant and competitive could cause a shift in this kind of protectionism.

“There are some traditional areas reserved for Bahamians in the first instance,” he said.

“There are others that have a traditional monopoly. We are not naive enough to think that we are going to change that thinking, but as we build up more and more entrepreneurs, as the market conditions expand we believe there will be more and more room for new entrants with more creative ideas to enter all of these various sectors.

“Again, this is not easy, this is cutting edge, but that’s what we need in order to grow as a country. We need people to push the boundaries, to test the limits, to debunk the old way of thinking about business and monopolies and protectionism and all of that.

“If we are going to be competitive, if we’re going to be able to be efficient and to remain relevant, then we’re going to have to change the way we have done business, adapt to the times and step up our game.

“I have full faith that as we bring in young entrepreneurs, who are now very savvy in technology and very exposed as to what’s happening in other parts of the world, that we will see a shift in the mindset of the traditional Bahamian business person and realize that it’s not about internal competition per se, but it’s about expanding the market and expanding the opportunity so that all can rise.”

The government has allowed access to $9 million to help Bahamian entrepreneurs develop new businesses. In addition, the government has guaranteed another $20 million over the next four years

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