Commentary by Sen. Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC
Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs
In this digital age, more and more governments are making the shift to online services to promote the expediency of the delivery of services, as well as to facilitate growth for business stakeholders. From the perspective of the Government of The Bahamas, modernizing government services is essential, especially if we are to tap into the potential of young Bahamians, our future generation.
I believe that with the right conditions, talented young Bahamians are poised to change the world. Improvements in the capacity of government to deliver services will not only support innovation and entrepreneurship, but will also increase productivity and create cost savings for businesses, simplify citizen interactions with government, reduce the cost of the public sector and increase government revenues.
This is why the Registrar General Department and the Office of the Attorney-General, along with our partners in the private sector, are working together closely to improve the ease of doing business in The Bahamas and to transform our e-Government platforms to eliminate costly and time consuming red tape.
First, we initiated the Companies e-Service Initiative on January 5, 2016. This exciting new campaign has moved the incorporation of companies and the paying of incorporation fees all online.
Phase-1b of the initiative will go even further, allowing for multiple names to be reserved, ordering of multiple documents, payment of stamp duty, regular company/non agent payment opportunities and the uploading of Officers and Directors is partially completed. The work will continue with the integration of National Insurance Board records to ensure that information is shared across platforms and government processes, making our work more accurate and more efficient.
Before the end of the year we expect the completion of Phase-2, which will allow for the execution of other company services such as dissolutions and the obtaining of Certificates of Good Standing, and changes in company ownership all online.
With the start of Phase-1 alone, we’ve seen over $11 million in revenue generated by the Companies e-Service Initiative.
We are optimistic that by modernizing government services and improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas, more young entrepreneurs will be able to pursue their dreams and set up successful business ventures. This includes those aspiring entrepreneurs on the Family Islands who will no longer have to come to Nassau to register their business, a process that can be time-consuming and costly.
For instance, think of the bright young man from Exuma who has just graduated high school and wants to start his own small business. By reducing the reliance on lawyers and untangling lengthy processes, this young entrepreneur can save time and money incorporating his business. He can do this all online, even on his phone, from the comfort of his bedroom.
Imagine the many Bahamians who are full of ideas for how to help their communities but feel that the process of registering their organizations is too complicated. The young woman from Andros can quickly establish and register her non-profit organization with ease, as she organizes a fundraiser that will help to empower her community.
Or consider a Bahamian chef, invited to an international culinary competition to display our wonderful food culture, never having owned a passport. With integrated government records and the ability to request certified documents online, we can eliminate the need to visit multiple government offices and stand in multiple lines to gather the necessary documents for his application.
Yesterday, along with our partners at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), we began conversations on how to build on the successes we have already achieved. A two day seminar, “Putting The Bahamas Ahead of the Wave: New Avenues to Embrace Innovation, Transparency and Service Delivery,” brought together the National Development Plan Secretariat, senior public service officers, private sector representatives, specialists from the IDB Institutional Capacity of the State Department and The Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Columbia.
Our priorities for this dialogue – better organizing government service delivery, improving transparency and internal controls, and enhancing e-Government and civil registration – are organically connected with the work of the Vision 2040: National Development Plan. This signals our commitment to moving from identifying our needs and the opportunities available to us, to implementing real change.
For our government, these concerns are central as we move towards building a modern Bahamas. This shift in policy to strategically think about how we deliver services, along with wide-ranging reforms to the Public Financial Management System and the implementation of new information technology to enhance government services were a primary focus during Prime Minister, The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie’s 2016/17 Budget Communication.
As I said during my own 2016/17 budget contribution in the Senate, these substantive changes to the way we do business will make us more competitive in the region and remove the red tape that so often stifles entrepreneurship. This government is working to ensure that we make it easier for young Bahamians to pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship, as they help to drive global innovation.