Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Bahamas SME Act
 Should be legislated within 100 Days

By Mark A. Turnquest, MBA

Date: May 6, 2017

After reviewing the manifestos of all major political parties it is expressed and implied that the Bahamas SME Act will be legislated within 5 years (2017-2022) by the new government. It is also indicated that SME Development Centres will be established sometime in the future. However, I stress that the Bahamas SME Act and SME Development Centres should be legislated and established within 100 days after the new parliamentary session has begun.  The SME Act must be one of the first legislations pass in the house because it is passed overdue and the entire country is suffering because of it not being enacted. This is evident because we have a high national debt and deficit and a low economic growth forecast. In addition, there are so many economic downgrades by international financial watchdogs.

After I had hosted the first Bahamas Small Business Summit in 2009, it was expected that a SME Act would have been legislated and a SME Development Agency, to oversee it, would be established within a few years. However, It is amazing that 10 years after the small business summit such an important legislation was not enacted a long time ago because government and private sectors policy makers always tout the philosophy that small businesses are driving forces of countries and should demand full national support and commitment.
The SME Act will foster inter-government ministries/departments synergy (BAIC, BDB, BEVF and Business License. etc.). In addition, it will increase intra-stakeholders synergy (BCCEC, IICA, IDB, OCED, ILO, WTO etc.). The SME Act will increase the GDP and the entrepreneurial spirit of Bahamians; and reduce the unemployment level, national debt, national deficit and most importantly the high crime level. The SME Act will encompass a sustainable National Family Island Development Plan.

Failure to legislate the SME Act in 100 days will cause The Bahamas to lose its economic and cultural creativity in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors and the World in the following important categories: Ease of Doing Business, Starting a Business, Sovereign Credit Rating and the Human Resource Index.
For an expanded version of this article contact Mark A. Turnquest MBA, at Tell: 326-6748 / 4273640; email: or website

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Bahamas SME Act & SME Development Agency Structure


Prepared by Mark A. Turnquest (August 26, 2014)


Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in The Bahamas will soon be able to compete globally because  public and private executives have  already crafted theBahamas Small & Medium Size Development Act (SME Act). The SME Act is forecasted to be legislated during the first quarter of 2015. It will stimulate economic growth and mitigate the negative impact of future recessions on the Bahamian economy.


The SME Act will be enforced and supervised by a non-political organization called theSmall & Medium Size Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDA).  A market research has already been completed in early 2014 to obtain information on how SME’s owners would like for business development activities to improve and progress in The Bahamas. In addition, SME owners made recommendations on how SMEDA should be structured to cater to the successful development of the SME sector in The Bahamas.

Public and private sector executives will be selected to SMEDA’s Board. Members of this Board will be mandated not to make decisions based on negative political, gender or cultural motives.   SMEDA’s Board will have the authority to make recommendations to modify particulars of the SME Act based on economic conditions or the request of stakeholders.

Presently, a strategic plan is being developed on how SMEDA would be properly structured so that it can operate in an effective and efficient manner.


The SME Act, from a domestic perspective, should provide the foundation on how to improve the economic conditions of the Bahamas. The SME Act, from an international perspective, should attract foreign investors who want to partner with local entrepreneurs in fields like E-commerce, manufacturing, agriculture and information technology. These industries are tremendously underserved and underdeveloped. These types of investments would diversify the Bahamian economy, which, to its peril, relies too heavily on Tourism and Financial Services sectors.

 The SME Act will revitalize the entrepreneurial spirit in all islands of The Bahamas. The SME Act, in its core will outline policies and initiatives that would assist in the development of S SMEs- a major driving force of our nation.

The SME Act will increase the national economic value of SMEs in The Bahamas. In addition, its purpose is to synchronize and unify the efforts of the Government, financial lending institutions, NGOs, SMEs and other stakeholders as it relates to small business development in The Bahamas. Most importantly, the SME Act will identify how local and international investors and entrepreneurs can qualify for incentive and stimulus programs when it comes to financing and developing innovative products and services.


The major reason why there is not an explicit master plan for SME development in The Bahamas is because of the absence of a SME Act to drive national strategies.

Six (6) important reasons why a SME Act was crafted:     

I.        The SME Act will encourage Bahamians to become entrepreneurs because it will outline excellent incentives /concessions that will be rewarded for:

§  The development of new innovative products /services

§  The hiring of a specific amount of Bahamians

§  increasing government revenues due to a significant amount of payments made for National Insurance, custom duties, property taxes, license fees etc

II.        The  SME Act will increase foreign direct investments (FDI) because  international investors, who are entrepreneurial, will partner with local Bahamians to develop innovative products and services in underserved and undeveloped industries;    

III.        The SME Act will keep many existing businesses open during a recessionbecause it will provide incentives / concessions to businesses that employ a moderate amount of staff, are up to date with NIB and custom duties, Value Added Tax (VAT), business License fees and contributing to making The Bahamas more competitive globally;

IV.        The SME Act will encourage Family Island Development by providing incentives / concessions to Bahamians who want to open small complimentary businesses (tour operators, movie theaters, agriculture, Laundromats etc.) on a family island that will increase the employment rate, improve the infrastructure of the island, encourage Bahamians to reside there permanently and entice more domestic and foreign tourists to visit the island;

V.        The SME Act will increase The Bahamas Gross Domestic Product (GDP)because it will eventually reduce the importation of foreign products and services, increase compensation to employees, increase business profits, increase government income and increase interest payments to Bahamians; and

VI.        The SME Act will reduce the national debt and deficit because it will decrease Government spending, particularly on hiring civil servants, and increase Government licenses, fees and taxes because more businesses will be operating in The Bahamas.


The SME Act will impact the decision making process of the following organizations:Government, SMEs (new entrepreneurs, existing business owners) financial lending institutions, NGOs, professional / trade associations in the following manner:


·         Incentive programs will be developed to encourage the creation of innovative products or services that will tremendously improve economic development;

·         Business recovery programs will not focus on unemployment hand-outs, but will assist businesses owners in maintaining current employment levels;  

·         The Bahamas Development Bank, The Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation and The Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund would harmonize policies and procedures; and align operational structures to become more effective and efficient when catering to SMEs. All government agencies and department that cater to businesses will work in synergy with SMEDA; and

·         Acquiring a business license will be less tedious because all of the relevant regulatory bodies would be under one roof.


·         New entrepreneurs that create innovative products or services will have easy access to financial funding, technical training and business support services.

·         Favorable technical and business management support will be given to entrepreneurial ventures that develop innovative products, delivery systems, operational structures and marketing strategies in film making, agro-processing, fashion design, e-commerce, information technology, Junkanoo, agriculture, art, e-learning, multi-media production, manufacturing, education, horticulture, software development, fly fishing, art and authentically Bahamian handicraft.


·         SMEs that operate in a socially responsible manner (e.g. up-to date in NIB, custom duty payments, VAT etc.) will have it less arduous to access financial funding and stimulus packages during economic downturns.

·         Medical, health and wellness, sports tourism, e-commerce, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), apiculture (bees agriculture), green energy production, innovative manufacturing and agriculture (coconuts etc.) markets will be effectively and efficiently exploited in order to successfully grow and diversify the economy.
·         The government and its partners (public–partnership relationship) will focus on revitalizing the cultural tourism, agriculture, fishing, fish farming and manufacturing industries.  I addition, the hemp, sisal, sponging and forestry industries will be successfully revitalized.

·         Commercial Banks, Credit Unions, and  Government financial funding programswill focus on providing adequate capital to variable SMEs  in introductory, growth and maturity stages of the business life cycle; and  

·         All financial lending institutions will engage in collaborate activities to develop various funding packages that address all financial requirements of viable SMEs. 


·         The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) , The Inter-American Development Bank, The College of The Bahamas (and other colleges), The International Labour Organization, The Inter-American Institute For Cooperation on Agriculture, The Bahamas Business Association etc. will collaborate efforts with SMEDA to oversee the enforcement of the SME Act;


·         Business, Accounting, Medical, Technical, Merchandising, Manufacturing, Construction, Real Estate, Fishing, Agriculture, etc. Associations will lobby for industries specific programs / concessions / incentives that would increase competitive capabilities to offset negative impacts of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).  


The basic structure of the SME Act should have five major components:


·         The national definition of a SME will be based on the combination of the following:Industry, Annual Sales, Employment Level and Ownership (Capital Structure);

·         This definition will clearly indicate the difference between “small businesses” and “medium sized businesses”; and

·         Stakeholders that cater to SMEs will be requested to honor this definition.


·         The present Incentive / Concession Legislation will be encompassed in the SME Act;

·         The SME Act will outline new incentives and concessions that would be received by SMEs for developing innovative products and services that contribute to the country’s economic development;

·         The SME Act will introduce stimulus programs that will be available to selective SMEs to mitigate the negative impact of future recessions. SMEs must be “socially responsible”, maintain a specific employment level and show signs of vitality;

·         The SME Act will explicitly indicate which SMEs are eligible for incentives, concessions and stimulus packages.


·         Government lending agencies, commercial banks, credit unions and other financial lending institutions will collaborate and pool together resources to develop a National SME Financial Lending Scheme (NFS). This NFS will make it easy to access capital for various stages of SMEs’ life cycle (Introductory, Growth, Restructuring, Recovery etc.);

·         The NFS will have clear policies, and loan packages will be categorized into specific programs based on financial requirements (needs); and

·         The NFS will be properly overseen by SMEDA


·         Management, marketing, human resources, computer, finance, accounting and entrepreneurship training will be provided at affordable prices;

·         Business Support Programs (BSPs) will be available to all SMEs. SMEs will have access to accountants, lawyers, business, marketing, human resources, information technology  and financial consultants who sign up and are approved by SMEDA  to offer their services at affordable rates;
·          Business coaches and consultants will be assigned to SMEs on a need-by-need or contractual bases; and

·         Technical training, BSPs and financial funding will be strategically linked so that SMEs will have a greater chance to operate viable businesses.


The major benefit of the SME Act will be that, through its aggressive financial and overall SME support policies, the Bahamian economy would become diversified and hence, be more protected against future recessions.

For more information, please feel free to contact Mark A. Turnquest at:

Telephone:    (242) 326-6748 / 427-3640



A SME Act and SME Development Agency is A Must !

A SME Act and SME Development Agency is A Must !

Log on to read Article

Propose Structure A SME Act and SME Development Agency

Log on to read Article

Light At Tunnel's End'on Small Business Act

Tribune Business Editor
Appointing an eight-member private sector committee to drive the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Bill forward has created “some light at the end of the tunnel”, a well-known consultant yesterday revealing that 75 per cent of his clients in the sector were “struggling”.
Mark Turnquest, of Mark A. Turnquest & Company, said that while the Government’s decision to appoint himself and seven other persons to the committee offered hope, many small businesses and entrepreneurs had adopted a ‘we’ll believe it when we say it’ attitude.
Acknowledging the continued weakness of many Bahamian-owned small and medium-sized (SME) enterprises, Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business he had been forced to cut the fees he charged for developing business plans by between 33-66 per cent.
And, while growth and optimism were unlikely in the short-term, Mr Turnquest said the Bill promised to usher in a “better business climate” for Bahamian SMEs by September 2013.
The legislation will create the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDA) as a ‘one-stop shop’ to facilitate all the industry’s needs, and Mr Turnquest told this newspaper that it was being structured to resist the political fall-out from changes in government.
Disclosing that the Government had appointed the committee, featuring six men and two women, two weeks ago, Mr Turnquest said they were currently focused on assessing small business needs and consulting with those in the sector.
Pledging that the committee would consult with the various industry associations, plus small businesses in New Providence and the Family Islands, early next year, he told Tribune Business: “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We can see that by next year the small business community will be in a far better position.... Right now, our country is not in a good position economically. A lot of times, people agree that small businesses are the driving force, but only recently are we making an effort to bring together the small business consultants in the field who can assist the Government.”
Apart from being hit by the recession, many Nassau-based small businesses have also had to contend with the disruption caused by the New Providence Road Improvement Project.
“I see a lot of businesses not open and people losing interest,” Mr Turnquest said. “I spoke to a lot of my customers about the Small and Medium-Seized Enterprise Development Act, but a lot of them are not in a position to recover because the financing mechanisms are not available right now.
“Lending institutions need to focus on new, high risk enterprises. That is one of the challenges right now. A lot of organisations have indicated they are going to lend money, but they are not practising what they preach.”
And he further told Tribune Business: “Of my clients, 75 per cent of them are struggling.
“All of them have under 10 people employed. That’s my market. Unfortunately, a lot of them have not yet started rehiring. Many of my clients had to go back to work in their shops; they have to work directly in the management of their companies and be there. They have not benefited from any recovery.
“Only 25 per cent of my clients have started hiring one or two people back again.”
Mr Turnquest said the struggles of the past four-five years had taken their toll on small business psychology, sapping the entrepreneurial spirit of many in the sector.
“I found out that their demeanour, enthusiastic behaviour, is not there,” he told Tribune Business of many clients.
“Presently, I’m doing a lot of planning and innovative-type marketing to see how I can attract new business myself. I, as a planner, have to do extra work to get my business back to where it is to survive.
“I went from a $750 fee for a business plan down to $500. New start-ups, I’m charging $250. My average price for a business plan is $250-=$500. No one has the means to pay more.”
Describing 2012 as “another year of drought”, Mr Turnquest added: “One of my clients has a pre-owned, used car business, and their sales are 30-40 per cent less than last year. That indicates people can afford less.
“Coming into the Christmas holidays, my clients are not optimistic at all. They don’t anticipate holiday sales will cover them for the major losses they’ve faced for the past year-and-a-half.
“I tell them that the Small Business Act and SMEDA will be hear next year. They’re not enthusiastic about that. While I told them it’s going to create a better business climate, they’re saying they’ve been suffering for too long, government has failed them for too long. They want to see it happen to believe it.”
Mr Turnquest said the committee would advise the Government on what was needed to create a “productive small business sector”, adding that the groundwork for the legislation and SMEDA’s structure was now taking place.
“Small business owners can feel confident now that by September next year they will have some type of facility where they will receive training, marketing and operational support,” he added.
SMEDA, Mr Turnquest said, would “identify the best funding mechanisms” for Bahamian small businesses, be that local or overseas sources.
This would also reduce the burden on the Bahamas Development Bank, government-sponsored venture capital fund and the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC).
The intention, Mr Turnquest said, was that all these agencies would have their own mandate, with SMEDA focused on small businesses.
Adding that the private sector would “drive” SMEDA, he said of its control: “Eventually there will be less government and more private sector..... The legal framework will go beyond political changes every five years.”
Pointing out that he would never have agreed to sit on the Government’s committee unless he was sure “something meaningful” would result, Mr Turnquest said: “We’ll make sure that when changes in government take place, they’ll never interfere with business growth and economic development in the Bahamas.”