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National Ease of Doing Business Committee disappointed more of its recommendations not enacted

The National Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Committee is disappointed that the government has not enacted more of its recommendations on how to improve the country’s ease of doing business, Committee Chair Lynn Holowesko said Friday, adding that her committee has also continued dialogue with the World Bank to get The Bahamas’ ease of doing business ranking markedly improved this year.

Holowesko, who was speaking at a Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) conference on Friday, explained that committee members were disappointed by the 2018/2019 budget after having handed over recommended changes to the government they knew would improve the country’s ease of doing business ranking.

“The budget presented by the government for 2018-2019 was disappointing for the EODB Committee, as well as for the business community. In addition to the raising of VAT (value-added tax) to 12 percent being painful, the new Business License Act was seen by us as generally counter-productive to improving business processes in The Bahamas. And, our repeated recommendations that taxes not apply to property transfers where no substantive change in beneficial ownership resulted, were ignored,” Holowesko said.

However, she said the committee was successful in having the government introduce efforts for cross agency validation through a single online application for multiple agencies; reduce the processing time for the renewal of business licenses to 48 hours instead of three weeks; introduce a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) help desk; introduce minority interest protection amendments to the Companies Act; introduce stamp duty exemption on the transfer of mortgages; introduce the removal of VAT charges on transfers pursuant to court orders; introduce VAT services to non-resident shipping companies; and consider a VAT reporting short form that is under review.

Holowesko said the committee was disappointed last year when the country’s ease of doing business ranking moved only from 119 to 118.

“In trying to understand why there had been so little improvement in our ranking, we learned that in some instances, questionnaires had been sent to individuals who either couldn’t be bothered to answer them, were unable to answer the questions or deliberately ignored the survey,” she said.

“One classic example was a question to an employee at BPL – does the corporation monitor “down-times” of electrical supply. The answer given was no – it does not. That response dropped The Bahamas some 20 points in the category of getting electricity, when in reality the corporation does indeed monitor such outages.”

In order to ensure The Bahamas receives a more justifiable improvement in its ranking, Holowesko said the committee has been working closely with the World Bank to ensure it is kept abreast of the government’s progress.

“A concerted effort was made to meet with the World Bank prior to this year’s questionnaires being circulated, and many members of the committee have been in direct contact with the bank’s managers of the process,” she said. “The committee has facilitated the World Bank survey process this year by providing a recommended list of potential survey candidates; following up with individuals on their survey responses; and providing clarification on the information sent to the World Bank by the survey candidates.

“We sincerely hope that these efforts, along with those made by the Ministry of Finance, will result in significant improvement in The Bahamas’ rating for 2019-2020.”

Chester Robards

Senior Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian.
Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism
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