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E-Government Platform to Boost Revenues
THE GOVERNMENT'S newly-launched $10.2 million e-services platform will transform the Bahamas into "a more business friendly jurisdiction", the minister of state for finance said yesterday, with increased Treasury revenues among the "significant" potential benefits. Zhivargo Laing told Tribune Business that the ease of paying due taxes and fees online might encourage some businesses and entrepreneurs, who had previously baulked at putting payments in the mail or going to the relevant agencies, to now do so. "I think the benefits are significant, actually," Mr Laing said of the e-government platform, which launched yesterday, "because you're talking of benefits to be had for the general public from the ease of doing some transactions over the computer, as opposed to having to go to some counter, go to some office and get in your car and drive through traffic somewhere to do so. They can do the same from their computer wherever they are in the country or the world." Asked whether the more efficient, convenient way to pay Business Licences and real property taxes, plus apply for work permits and renewals, could boost government revenues by encouraging businesses/entrepreneurs to pay, Mr Laing replied: "I believe so in the end. "There's benefits to the Treasury, and it will ultimately improve revenue and economic activity, and make us a more business friendly jurisdiction." Through reducing, or eliminating, the need to stand in line to pay taxes or complete permit applications, business efficiency and productivity should be enhanced. Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday said the Government wanted to "change" the Bahamas' United Nations ranking of 65th out of 180- nations when it came to e-government, while Mr Laing expressed hope that the platform's launch would result in a "significant improvement" in this nation's Ease of Doing Business rankings.


Perception is everything, and he pointed to the impact that Singapore's high 'Ease of Doing Business' ranking was having on its economy. The island nation, which supplied the consultants that assisted with the Government's online service project, had attracted hundreds of companies to establish themselves there, boosting employment and economic growth.

"Over time, the more we encourage this e-government platform, the more there will be benefits all around," Mr Laing said. The Bahamas has slipped gradually in the Ease of Doing Business listings over the past few years, and the minister expressed hope that the nation would have "a much better ranking" He hoped to see an improvement in the medium term, with a more marked rise long-term.. The first four e-government services launched yesterday were driver's licence renewals, real property tax payments, civil service-wide customer service, and vendor inquiries.

Mr Laing said that "in a couple of weeks" the platform would be expanded to feature the online application for, and payments, of Business Licences. The Road Traffic Act will be amended in October to provide for traffic penalties to be paid over the Internet, thus relieving the pressure on the court system. And, among the other services to be added over the coming years, are new and renewal work permit applications; Customs duty payments; passport application payments; post office box rental payments; and police character certificate payments. Mr Laing yesterday said he had already received queries over whether annual International Business Company (IBC) payments could be made online, and added: "Obviously, that's where we intend to go, so whatever transaction one could imagine being done over the computer, we want to deliver over the computer."

While "hundreds" of government services could be provided online, Mr Laing pointed out that the Ingraham administration had to prioritise, as each one required "back end" support to be put in place.

Urging the public and private sector to provide feedback on what services they wanted to be provided online next, Mr Laing said: "It's a Budget issue, a time issue and a logistical issue.

"It will take us time, and as the people from Singapore have pointed out, it took them 30 years to get where they are today. I don't imagine it will take us that sort of time, but it will take us time to bring all these services online." The Prime Minister said yesterday: "We are deepening and broadening the Government's efforts to create more of a service culture, aided by cutting-edge technology and best practices in the public service. And we are improving the means by which services will be delivered to businesses and the general public. "The Bahamas has spent many years on the journey that led us to this point in our history. The e-government vision was conceptualised more than a decade ago when we were in office, but it is only now that we have finally arrived at a point where we can present a 'single window' and a new face to government services online."

And he added: "Our vision for the Bahamas is that investing in the use of technology to deliver public services (education, health, financial, etc.) will catapult our nation forward in the delivery of services to the Bahamian public. "Our vision is that the Government's substantial progress in implementation of e-Government will serve as a catalyst to drive a new wave of the use of technology in all facets of the Bahamian economy."


Websoft Written on Tuesday, 02 August 2011 17:36 by Websoft

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