Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has defended the government against accusations that it is “coaching” respondents to the Ease of Doing Business survey to ensure the country receives a better score.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, who is also the shadow minister of finance, charged that people connected to the government were attempting to “artificially improve ratings” by calling businesses and company representatives who respond to the annual World Bank Group survey.
“We want tangible improvements, we don’t just want good ratings, we want ratings supported by tangible improvements,” Cooper said in the House of Assembly Wednesday evening.
“I found it rather distressing that I understand that some persons are seeking to see how we can artificially improve ratings.
“But I’ve discussed the matter with the minister and he has assured me that we will work hand in hand on tangible improvements in the ease of doing business.”
In response, Turnquest said it is not uncommon for various entities in their respective countries working to address whatever issues – legislative, regulatory or process – to make changes to the business environment.
“So, we have an Ease of Doing Business Committee that is working on this specifically. And, so, yes, they are doing surveys. They are contacting companies and they are contacting people who would be participants in the surveys to coordinate the response. Because a lot of times we find that people who answer these questions don’t have full command of the facts. And, so, there’s not coaching,” Turnquest said.
“I just came from Barbados and they are engaged in exactly the same exercise.
“So, this is not unusual. If you think that these rankings just happen, then you’re being very naïve.
“At the end of the day, The Bahamas is not doing anything unethical or doing anything illegal.
“It is doing the best to ensure that the issues that contribute to the issues where we are weak in the ease of doing business, that we are addressing those issues so that we are able to improve our ratings overall. And at the end of the day make it easier to do business in The Bahamas both for foreign and domestic businesses.”
The Bahamas ranked 119 in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 index, down one spot from the 118 the country ranked in 2018.
In an effort to improve the country’s standing, the Minnis administration established a National Ease of Doing Business Committee in 2017, chaired by former Senate President Lynn Holowesko, specifically mandated to recommend policy that would result in a higher ranking for the country.