Small business owners plan to assemble at Arawak Cay today to demand not only the strategic opening of small businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the legislating of specific policies that will help protect and grow small businesses in The Bahamas.
Organizer of the event Mark Turnquest reiterated yesterday that the meeting of business owners will be “peaceful, legal, professional” and in line with COVID-19 health protocols.
Those gathering to speak to the government through the media to demand better conditions for small businesses, had hoped to march to Parliament Square to make their concerns known, but had not been given the green light up to press time yesterday.
“They are trying to frustrate us, but they can’t stop us,” said Turnquest.
According to him, the group of business owners, said to be 100 strong, hope to convince the government to strategically reopen non-essential businesses in a safe manner; to create a development plan for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); to legislate a small business act; allow for the participation of more MSMEs in the creation of policy to govern the sector; and relax the “regulations that act as barriers to obtaining international funding for MSMEs”.
Turnquest said last week that small business owners continue to be aggrieved about the negative effects the government’s emergency orders and lockdown measures have had on them.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Turnquest said. “COVID-19 added a lot of stress on the small business owners, but the policies for small business owners over the years, we were going to see this trend eventually. COVID-19 just exposed it.”
He explained that small businesses have been shut down on and off since mid-March due to the pandemic and will have reached the end of the lifelines of their companies in October.
“There is no October plan,” he said. “They were [in October] going to lay off all their staff and they were willing to really just be in the organization by themselves, trying to run it and move out of the business location where they were paying rent, because, you know, everybody lost their money in August. All of us paid business rent, including myself, and we haven’t been there [in the rented space] yet and that’s a loss that cannot be recovered in the short term.”