In hopes of developing a financial blueprint to move the country’s economy forward, scores of private sector heavy hitters gathered at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday to participate in the government’s Bahamas Economic Recovery Strategy Meeting.
The meeting was the brainchild of State Minister for Investments Khaalis Rolle, who is a former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce president.
While speaking with reporters yesterday, he spoke about why such a conclave was necessary.
“I want to come out of this meeting with an economic recovery strategy – an interim one and then a long-term one. I don’t know if The Bahamas since 1967 has sat down and developed a long term economic strategy for the development of this country,” he said.
“While I was in the private sector I often advocated for that and now that I am in government, it would be remiss of me not to continue to pursue that. The country will not grow and develop on a sustainable basis if we don’t take a structured approach to it and that is why we are here.”
The minister said he is also hoping that some legislation will cement the new strategy.
“There are some legislation that will come to bear under the National Investment Act that will govern how we manage foreign direct investment and also the Small and Medium Sized Business Act and we are well on the way to getting that launched by the end of the year,” Minister Rolle said.
He added that there are certain areas that business people and the government need to look at.
One of them is energy.
“The cost of energy is just too high and it’s an impediment to having a successful country. So we’re working on having a conservative energy platform that over a period of time will reduce the cost of energy,” Minister Rolle said.
“Secondly, the tourism sector is not dead. There are opportunities to be tapped in the tourism sector so we are going to pursue those opportunities.”
Minister Rolle stressed that this is a national strategy that will need all stakeholders on board.
He said this includes the Opposition.
“Our approach is to make sure that it is entwined in what we do so that the people make the decision that long-term they want to see this economy develop and that there is a concrete strategy in place. We are going to sit down and talk to all the stakeholders and to prepare a plan like this is probably going to cost us around $250,000 but that is nothing compared to what we are going to get out of it,” Minister Rolle said.
While addressing the attendees, Prime Minister Perry Christie noted that when he first became prime minister in 2002, the Free National Movement (FNM) often made light of the fact that he consulted with experts before making many decisions in the country.
But he said he feels that consultation is vital towards the development of the country.
“It meant by definition that I was not a decisive prime minister. To a great extent, Bahamians have been exploited by these generalization that applies to opposition and only in recent times have you been confronted with the fact that from an economic point of view the management of your country has continued to worsen – that the national debt is a major, major issue that we should deal with,” he said.
“Understand that this country needs a consultative process. Now the stakeholders in our country must necessarily have a relationship with the Government of The Bahamas. So if you have the Government of The Bahamas and its views as they manifest themselves in policies and even philosophies. And the Government of The Bahamas must have a view of the stakeholders of the country.”