A CABINET Minister yesterday sought to “clarify” the seemingly new hard-line work permit stance, saying it was “not a firm policy” and no final decision on it had been taken by the government.
In what some might interpret as “back tracking” or an attempt to soften the remarks made by Immigration minister Fred Mitchell in the House of Assembly on Monday, Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, said the proposals had been “thrown out there” in a bid to get public discussion going on the work permits issue.
“The clarification that needs to come is that it was just thrown out there. The government has not developed a firm policy position on it. This is just being considered as a mechanism to create domestic jobs for Bahamians,” Mr Rolle said.
Emphasising that the Christie administration intended to strike “the right balance”, Mr Rolle said there had been an overreaction to Mr Mitchell’s remarks, and he urged businesses and investors “not to panic”.
The proposals, as laid out by Mr Mitchell, sent a collective chill through the private sector – and both Bahamian and foreign investors, new and existing – as they outlined a significant hardening of the government’s stance on issuing work permits.
The reaction from the Bahamian political and business community was largely negative, with the likes of Branville McCartney, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader and former immigration minister, branding the proposed policies as “unworkable”.
He also warned that, if implemented, they could “cripple the economy” and set back its recovery, as no nation – not even the US or UK – could meet all its labour needs.
If Mr Mitchell’s comments were intended as a “Green Paper” to start the dialogue, it has come across as a very clumsy way of doing so, given that it created an immediate concern in the Bahamian business community as to whether they would be able to hire workers – at reasonable cost – vital to the profitability of their operations.
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