Categorized | National News

House Divided On Commercial Enterprise Bill

Despite the opposition’s push to delay debate on the commercial enterprise bill in the interest of further consultation, the government yesterday pressed ahead with the proposed legislation that is being touted as one that encourages both domestic and foreign investment.


Taking the lead for the government, State Minister for Legal Affairs, Ellsworth Johnson stressed that the act would not just allow a potential investor to come to the Bahamas without producing a proper business plan, but it would ensure that those persons are credible.


“We want to be assured that the persons that are coming in are not money launderers, traffickers, or using these businesses for terrorism financing. So you would find in the bill that there would be a requirement for financial transaction reporting,” Johnson said.


He added that the bill does not provide anything unusual, but in fact is built on the principals that made the Bahamas a vibrant tourism sector.


He also said the bill provides not only an opportunity for foreigners, but Bahamians as well.


“Outlined in the legislation, in the spirit of Bahamianization there is an obligation to train Bahamians and recognize Bahamian talent, but there must be a little give and take. We will accept foreign professionals, but it must be monitored,” Johnson said.


He said the bill allows Bahamians to receive the same incentives and creates an environment where Bahamians are able to ride side by side with foreign investors and those Bahamians who want to, can invest and join joint ventures.


The opposition’s shadow Minister of Finance I. Chester Cooper seriously questioned the bill’s dramatic inefficiencies, charging that in its present form, he could not support it.

“It’s a hard sell to Bahamians when we say it’s their time and then you’re making it easier for foreigners to open companies and get work permits without explaining the upside and benefits in detail to the Bahamian people,” Cooper said.


He added that the government is misguided and although the plan appears to be to spur economic activity by relaxing immigration policy, relaxing immigration policy alone in his view will not do it.


The commercial enterprise bill allows for more of a liberal granting of work permits in an effort to attract small business investors.


The bill has several clauses for those work permits, including the fact that the investor or business is only entitled to apply for such permits if the business is within the specified niche market.


Some of the markets listed are manufacturing, biomedical industries, data storage or warehousing, wealth management, Nano technology, international arbitrage and others.

Mr.Cooper said he thinks the bill addresses markets foreign to the Bahamian economy.


“Upon reading this bill it appears to target niche industries the Bahamas is not known for, which is not a bad thing, were it not coupled with the immigration elements that’s baked into the bill. Sectors such as international arbitrage, computer programming, software design, bioinformatics and analytics, maritime trade– is there a place for Bahamians to get more deeply involved in these industries?” Cooper asked.


He added that he wonders what is being done now that they have identified these industries to encourage more Bahamians to participate.


He suggested scholarships or other incentives.


The bill also stipulates that the business must invest a minimum of $250,000. Their employees requiring a permit must be certified professionals, and their work permit application must be made within 30 days of them entering the country.


The enterprise bill was tabled in October and the debate will continue over the next few weeks.


Written by Jones Bahamas

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