Consultant: We've waited too long for Small Business Act

By Natario McKenzie

Tribune Business Reporter

A small business consultant said yesterday that he is “disappointed” that after a decades-long wait there appears to be “very little movement’”towards the establishment of a Small Business Act to govern the sector, telling Tribune Business: “It’s been too long”.

“I see no movement on the Small Business Act. All governments have promised that the Act would be introduced and it hasn’t happened. I am still optimistic the present government will legislate it but it’s taking too long. I formulated the structure of the Act and gave it to the government over nine years ago now,” said Mark A Turnquest, principal of Mark A Turnquest Consulting.

Mr Turnquest, while lauding the work of the long-awaited Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), noted that it still lacked the legislative framework needed to co-ordinate the multiple policies and agencies seeking to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

He further warned that in the absence of the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Development Act, the SBDC and other agencies might end up competing with each other in a crowded SME assistance field.

Mr Turnquest said that legislation would help to ensure initiatives and efforts are not undermined by future administrations which may have a different philosophy.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the Act has not yet been introduced because based on what we have seen in the past, if there is no legislation any initiative can be overridden. Another administration can simply come along and undo all the work because they may think things should be done differently.”

“Once there is the the co-ordination and legal framework in place everything will be driven by the Act. The Act will outline what is expected and not expected of a small business. There is really no definition of a micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the country right now,” said Mr Turnquest.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest during the 2019/2020 budget communication argued that every dollar invested in the government’s flagship small business initiative generates an economic impact more than five times greater. He noted that every $1 injected into the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) produces an additional $5.58 in economic growth via the micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) it helps to expand.

The SBDC has advised nearly 500 small, new and existing businesses/individuals across The Bahamas. Since its inception, they have invested well over 67,000 hours in advising, training, courses, and research and site visits, “ Mr Turnquest continued.

“Further, there are roughly 61 companies still in the pipeline that are in the developmental stages where they are receiving advice and taking courses to be eligible for funding. It is estimated now that the funding that will be available to them is in the neighborhood of $7m. This means more companies will be started, more companies will be expanded, and more dreams will be realised,” said Mr Turnquest.