Chair of the National Ease of Doing Business Committee (EODB) Lynn Holowesko said the committee is very pleased with many of the policies introduced in the 2019/2020 budget aimed at improving the business climate in the country, particularly surrounding immigration, conveyance valuations and estate planning.
Earlier this year, Holowesko had said the committee was disappointed that the government had not enacted more of its recommendations.
Holowesko said since its inception in 2017, the committee has been meeting on an almost weekly basis and had made quite a number of recommendations to the government. Some were accepted, but she said there were also quite a number of recommendations that were not initially accepted and have now been accepted.
“We’ve recommended over a long period of time that transfers from an individual’s company to the same individual’s company where there is no change in beneficial ownership at all, we asked for that to be exempted and that has been exempted. The estate planning, too, among close family members has been implemented in this year’s budget as well. There is a period, a “lock-up”, of seven years but aside from that we are very happy to see the government accept that recommendation, because in particular there are parents who want to have their kids get started in a business and the transfer of a piece of land which they can mortgage and then start a business with is very helpful to a lot of people,” she said in a recent interview with Guardian Business.
“We’ve asked that the government accept the face value of conveyances where there is no apparent discrepancy between the amount that appears on the conveyance and the actual market value of the property. They have agreed to that and that is significant. All of these are significant, but the significance of that may not be readily apparent to some people. But it has added cost and a tremendous amount of time to property transfers to be told that every transfer has to have a valuation attached to it by an accredited property appraiser. So, if that is out the window it is a huge benefit to doing business in our country.”
Still, in an interview with Guardian Business, the former Senate president said there are areas the committee is still hoping the government will act on.
“There’s always more to be done isn’t there? Nobody’s ever satisfied, including the committee. Yes, there’s more to be done. We feel so often we take giant steps forward and then a step backwards. We are very pleased that now a business that wants to bring in either a foreign consultant or a foreign repairs person for equipment that is not able to be repaired in The Bahamas, or a consultant for a board meeting that is being held, all those individuals who come into The Bahamas now can come in easily on a temporary work visa or a letter admitting them without any holdups at the airport,” she said.
“Again, that’s huge. There used to be not only a holdup at the airport for people like that, but it was in many cases an enormous embarrassment to Bahamian businesses that invited people into the country and found them detained at the airport and we feel that situation has been resolved and resolved very well.”
Holowesko said the committee has also worked closely with the World Bank on ensuring it receives accurate information on the questionnaires it sends out to members of the public, and/or members of professional fields that ultimately go toward the country’s ranking on its annual ease of doing business index.
“The various areas they are quizzing us on in regards to our progress has to do with getting a mortgage, opening up a bank account, with getting electricity and all those things. So, recommendations have been made and many have been accepted that we are hoping are going to raise our standing with the World Bank’s ratings when that comes out in September or October,” she said.