by STAFF WRITER
February 15, 2022
NASSAU, Bahamas, Feb 15, CMC – A new study has found that more than 60 per cent micro, small and mid-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Bahamas had been affected by the passage of Hurricane Dorian and the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The study, titled “Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 Pandemic on MSMEs in The Bahamas,” includes in-depth analysis from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) which uncovers many layers of vulnerability of MSMEs in the face of crisis.
Ranking vulnerability based on 12 indicators, the MVI scores of the MSME sector in the Bahamas are offering a more nuanced and holistic analysis of the impact of the hurricane and pandemic crises.
The Impact Assessment was commissioned by the UNDP Multi Country Office in Jamaica and UNDP SURGE Data Hub Country Support Management Team and Crisis Bureau, working in partnership with the Ministry of Finance of The Bahamas and the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), Access Accelerator, and The Organization for Responsible Governance which conducted the study.
The report is based on findings from a survey of 486 MSMEs in Abaco and Grand Bahama between November 2020 and February 2021, combined with ‘Livelihoods Meeting’ interviews, and available research on the impacts of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.
The key findings of the study indicate that: 63.2 per cent of MSMEs were affected by both Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, with more businesses in Grand Bahama (75.2 per cent) being affected by both the storm and pandemic, compared to Abaco where 50 per cent of MSMEs were impacted by the hurricane alone.
The study found that more than 55.2 per cent of MSMEs in Abaco closed permanently compared to 11.6 per cent of businesses in Grand Bahama, the island which had a higher rate of vulnerable businesses (90 per cent), compared to Abaco (84 per cent), based on MVI scores.
The report also provides detailed, disaggregated information on the socio-economic impacts on MSME products and services, sales and financial performance; business inputs and hours and COVID 19 adaptations and adjustments; and an assessment of the efficacy of post Dorian and COVID support interventions on MSMEs.
The report also outlines recommendations for policy development focus on improving resiliency, social and economic recovery and mitigating the impact of future crises on the sector and the SBDC said it intends to use the findings to strengthen its assistance to MSMEs in the affected islands through its Access Accelerator programme.
“In times of crisis the MSME sector must recover as quickly as possible in order to expedite economic recovery while ensuring the displaced and dispossessed can survive.
“UNDP remains committed to bolstering the resilience of this important sector as a part of its crisis prevention and recovery services to the countries we serve in the western Caribbean,” said UNDP Resident Representative, Denise E Antonio.
She said with MSMEs representing 99 per cent of Bahamas’ business licenses and 18 per cent of Bahamas’ gross domestic product (GDP), national capacities and access to quality data must be strengthened to ensure that the best fit for purpose crisis prevention and recovery tools and policies are employed to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of the sector.
SBDC executive director, Davina Bain, said Bahamian MSMEs face an extreme challenge in recovering from the twin blows of the disruptions caused by the COVID19 pandemic and the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
“These businesses are ‘highly vulnerable’ to the ravages of the COVID19 pandemic, particularly those with two employees, which manifested the highest vulnerability rate (94 per cent), followed by those with three to five employees (90 per cent) and then those who are self-employed reflected the third highest business vulnerability (89 per cent), which correspond to the vulnerability rate for the whole sample (89 per cent).
“Interestingly, the analysis showed that single-employee businesses exhibit the lowest vulnerability (8 per cent), as compared to the other business sizes. They have also proven incredibly vulnerable in the face of Hurricane Dorian,” she said.
Bain said UNDP’s recent assessment of the social and economic impact and efficacy of the post-Dorian and COVID support programmes on MSMEs in Grand Bahama and Abaco, together with the recommendations for policy development to improve resiliency, promote social and economic recovery and mitigate the impact of future disaster on MSMEs, help clarify what the organisation thinks think is the central point.
“Data is key to transformational government policy, particularly government policy aimed at assisting MSMEs as they seek to pivot and expand in a post-COVID19, post-Hurricane Dorian market. Understandable, usable, accessible and credible data is necessary for driving both government policy and business digitalization, and the kind of data represented by the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) is therefore clearly critical for both government and our clientele,” she added.
The report acknowledges that the unprecedented scope of the crises; the proximity of timing between the two events; and limitations of available data and government data analyses systems present a complex and challenging situation to the Bahamas government as it works to develop policies, plans and resources to aid in the recovery resilience and sustainability of MSMEs
“The primary objective of these recommendations is to support the recovery and development of systems to improve the resilience of MSMEs such that they can play a greater role in the future sustainability and resilience of Grand Bahama, Abaco, and The Bahamas as a whole” the report added.
In the aftermath of hurricane Dorian, UNDP contributed over one million US dollars in technical assistance services to the hurricane relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts in The Bahamas