By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government is “completely up to date” on its investment approvals process, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday, with “bottlenecks” eliminated and the Investment Board turnaround time taking three weeks.
Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, told Tribune Business that attorneys, realtors and other professionals advising investment applicants should have had little cause to complain about the time taken to obtain approvals “in recent months”.
“We’re completely up to date,” he told Tribune Business. “Any project that’s not received approvals yet, it’s for specific reasons non-related to the administrative system.
“They may be missing documents, waiting on policy decisions for something out of the ordinary. But the ordinary course of business flowing smoothly, and the turnaround time is going extremely well. You’re looking at about three weeks.”
Mr Rolle pointed out that this timeframe applied to the Investments Board, which focuses on approving real estate (chiefly foreign second home and property purchases) transactions, as opposed to the National Economic Council (NEC).
The latter, which is usually the Cabinet or a Cabinet committee, deals more with major multi-million dollar projects such as resorts.
“Simple projects, like moving a back office to the Bahamas, that moves relatively quickly,” Mr Rolle said of the NEC process.
However, major investment projects normally required attention from multiple government agencies, such as the Town Planning Committee and Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, with massive Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) having to be reviewed by experts.
“We’re moving quickly,” Mr Rolle pledged on the investments approval process. “We’re still short-staffed, and this is the time of year when people take vacations, but overall I’m comfortable we’re moving at a reasonable pace. I don’t see bottlenecks taking place now.”
He added that a consultant had now been chosen to assist with the creation of an Economic Development Unit within the Prime Minister’s Office, a project that is being part-financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“Planning will play a major role,” Mr Rolle said of the Government’s economic decisions going forward, noting that the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) would be incorporated into the new Unit as its administrative and promotional arm.
The Minister also disclosed that the Government was organising an investment promotion tour to Canada for later in 2013, describing that country as a “very hot” source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Bahamas.
Recalling a recent Canadian event he attended, which was organised by David Kosoy’s New Providence Income Fund, Mr Rolle told Tribune Business: “We’re talking to quite a few people.
“I recently attended an invitation luncheon in Canada organised by the New Providence Income Fund, and there were quite a number of very influential, established business families at this luncheon who are very much interested in the Bahamas. I think we’re going to see some good results.”
Mr Rolle said the Canada promotional tour would likely take in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, and added that stimulating both FDI and domestic investment was “the only way we’re going to revive the economy”.
“We have to take a two-part approach to this,” he explained. “We have to be encouraging domestic investment, making it easier for individuals with money and creative investments, and making sure those investments are realised, while making it easier for foreign investors to manage the process and see value in moving money to the Bahamas.
“We’re seeing quite a number of resort projects, people are interested in alternative energy, and it’s just now closing those deals.”