|BDB pledges support behind $10M fund|
Guardian Business Reporter
Published: Jun 29, 2012
As the government seeks to reposition the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB), $10 million has been allocated for small business development and support.
Michael Halkitis, state minster for finance, revealed to Guardian Business that the government is committed to repositioning BDB in order for it to run more efficiently and effectively.
“We have an allocation in the budget $10 million for small business development and support, which BDB has historically drawn on along with some other agencies, so there’s money there. We just need to make sure that we are using the money to our maximum benefit. It’s a matter of making sure that it is being directed appropriately,” he explained.
He noted that now is the time for the bank to move away from being solely a lending institution, and instead, also provide advice and technical assistance.
“With many of our programs, our experience has been the eagerness to lend to small business people. But after they have been loaned the money, there is that gap where they may have the need for technical support or advice on how to actually operate a business properly to make sure that all of our agencies are effective,” according to Halkitis.
“We want to be able to look back a year or two later and see the majority of them are successful. I believe we have to do a better job of supporting people in business. Over the years, efforts have been made as the staff has tried to support businesses but I believe we need to refocus and it shouldn’t be based on just giving out capital.”
Recently, Senator Jerome Gomez pointed out how the government is proposing to build on the success of programs such as the Bahamas Domestic Investment Fund and the government guaranteed loan program – which proved to be successful under the PLP’s administration from 2002-2007 – by creating a fund for the development of new, innovative business ideas.
“We are committed to assisting in the development of at least 100 new Bahamian-owned businesses that will gross at least $1 million each annually by the end of next term in government,” he explained. “The fund will operate under the private management of a small business administration that will consolidate the institutions presently responsible for small businesses. This seeks to create a one-stop shop with the mandate of providing technical support to small businesses and cut through bureaucratic red tape on behalf of business owners.”
Halkitis confirmed to Guardian Business he will be working along with officials from the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) to ensure that mentorship opportunities are available for new business owners.
“The monies are available, but we have to make sure that the support is there. Mentorship, where successful business people who have a solid track can mentor those who are just coming into business, giving them tips on how to be successful,” he shared.
“That is one idea that has been advanced by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation. We are going to be working with them to develop that more so that our business people can have access to it. The idea is to make it more flexible and we all need to recognize that the process does not stop when the loan is granted and then you go try and get the loan. It’s all about the relationship, the loan is granted, business support is given and the end result is that we want to see more of our businesses to be success stories.”