The government will inject more than $20m to recapitalise the Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) in the upcoming 2021-2022 fiscal year as part of efforts to boost small business financing.

Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for finance, addressing the Senate during the mid-year budget debate, said that a reoriented BDB will look at multiple forms of financing and different industries to help the Bahamian economy revive from COVID-19’s devastation.

“The BDB has been rebranded, restructured and rejuvenated with new staff, a new comprehensive strategic plan and a renewed focus on development financing,” the minister said optimistically. “The new BDB is focused on planning, providing greater transparency, measuring impact and delivering results……

“To this end, the Ministry of Finance is committing more than $20m in financing in the 2021-2022 fiscal year to recapitalise the BDB and increase funding opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in The Bahamas.”

Equity and bridge financing, together with syndicated loans, are some of the financing options that will be explored by the BDB, according to Mr Thompson. He added that it will focus on supporting small farmers involved in “all-natural broiler production”; the commercial animal sector; honey exports; climate resilient housing; and Cascarilla production.

Elsewhere, Mr Thompson said the revived partnership with Tyler Technologies, which has continued work initiated under the former Christie administration, had “added over $9bn” worth of real estate to the property tax roll following its island wide assessment of New Providence.

“The real property tax system in The Bahamas has long been a source of revenue leakage for the Government. Mountains of tax arrears have been accumulating, in part because our systems were antiquated,” he said.

“The real property tax system has been plagued with bad data issues as its database has been populated with inconsistent and poor property descriptions, poor ownership records and other missing and outdated records.

“To date, the implementation of the new  real property tax system with technology partner, Tyler Technologies, has resulted in the employment of 45 Bahamians. The new platform has been updated with over 13,000 assessments, adding over $9bn in tax property value to the tax roll,” Mr Thompson continued.

“Our database now has consistent property descriptions which will result in less errors in billings. Based on the work to date on this project, real property tax revenue is estimated to increase by $14m to $22m.”

Elsewhere, Mr Thompson said the categories of businesses eligible for a provisional Business Licence, which would be awarded in 48 hours, have been expanded to include “low risk businesses” such as clothing stores; beauty stores; furniture stores; bookstores; florists; car washes; small construction businesses; farming and fishing businesses;  printing shops; retail and wholesale companies; and home-based businesses.