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The Commercial Enterprises Bill being debated in the House of Assembly is being rejected by a wide cross-section of professionals in the private sector. Throughout the country many Bahamians are suggesting that the legislation is giving preference to foreigners over Bahamians. This is the assessment of a senior public servant.

The official in the Ministry of Labour, speaking with The Bahama Journal on the condition of anonymity said, “from our survey, we have found that there are many complaints about the bill. Bahamians are offended that the government appears to be bending the rules for foreign people.

“ The people of Singapore had reasons to rebel against a similar law. While we need foreign investors, the consensus is that the bill is offensive to the business community,” said the senior public officer.

In the legislation, “ any commercial enterprise that is desirous of making an investment in The Bahamas and obtaining work permits in respect of its senior management or in-house professionals, may apply for a commercial enterprise certificate.

The Director of Immigration shall determine any work permit applied for not later than fourteen working days after the filing of the application, failing which the work permit shall be deemed to have been granted pursuant to the Act and may only be later revoked if the Director has reasonable grounds for so doing on the basis of public safety, public morality or national security.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson says the Commercial Enterprise and the Grand Bahama (Port Area) Extension of Tax Exemptions Bills are needed to strengthen the economy of Grand Bahama.


The Minister said, “The Commercial Enterprise Bill is exactly what Grand Bahama needs to boost our economy and create more opportunities for Grand Bahamians.”


He stated that the Bill is designed to attract businesses not already operating here, for example: international trade, captive insurance, nano technology and data warehousing. As tourism alone is not enough, the commercial environment must be made more attractive for such businesses to come to Grand Bahama.


“We in Grand Bahama have been talking about being the leader in technology, arbitration, maritime trade, and captive insurance, and this Bill, for the first time provides an attractive package for businesses that are not here to come and provide opportunities for Bahamians.”


Minister Thompson told the Press yesterday that the government intends to make Grand Bahama a technology hub, and what this Bill does is exactly what was recommended at the recent Technology Summit – make it easier for technology businesses to come and do business and bring their specially-skilled persons who can train Bahamians.


The government of The Bahamas was elected to effect change, he said, and in order for the economy to grow, there must be a shift in both policy and thinking. The results will not change, he added, if things continue to be done in the same manner.


“The Bill allows benefits to Bahamians and non-Bahamians. It will allow for special economic zones to be created all over The Bahamas including in Grand Bahama, where this model has worked in the past.


“The key points of the Bill are: Enterprises can apply for a certificate. Before the certificate is granted, the proposed enterprise must submit for approval the nature of the business and staffing needs, as well as training and capacity building for Bahamians.”


The certificate will be reviewed annually, and how Bahamians are being included, assessed.


Examples of such businesses where this has already occurred, he said, are the Grand Bahama Shipyard, BORCO and the Freeport Container Port. The Carnival Medallion Project is another business where several work permits were issued, but Bahamians are now being trained in technology that did not exist in The Bahamas.


Turning his attention to the Grand Bahama Extension of Tax Exemptions Bill, Minister Thompson said this replaces the Grand Bahama Incentives Bill.


“The Government will therefore provide the extension of tax incentives under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement for 20 years to all licensees along with the Grand Bahama Port Authority. This will create the needed certainty for business development.


“The Bill also, for the first time, provides legislative framework for the One Stop Shop which will tremendously increase the ease of doing business in Grand Bahama. The Port Area Investment Board is created to expeditiously process investment applications which will provide more employment on the island,” the Minister concluded.


Written by Jones Bahamas

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