By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government has embarked on a “restructuring exercise” at the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA), a Cabinet Minister yesterday telling this newspaper this was necessary because it did not fulfill the current needs of an investment promotion agency.
Speaking with Tribune Business from a Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) in Miami, Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, said most of the backlog at the Investments Board had been corrected.
“We have been going through a restructuring exercise at the Bahamas investment Authority, which resulted in some staff movement and other operational issues,” he said.
“We are not complete but we have corrected most of the backlog, and we don’t foresee any major delays taking place. When you do a restructuring and you are losing and replacing staff, that tends to happen.
“Last week we got up to date with all of the IT and Investment Board issues. It has nothing to do with the frequency of Investment Board meetings as being claimed.”
As reported in Tribune Business on Monday, frustration and concerns have been mounting among Bahamian attorneys, realtors and their clients over Investment Board approvals backlogs of up to three months, with the delays costing both the private sector and the Government much-needed revenue.
Mr Rolle explained that the restructuring exercise was intended to make the Bahamas Investment Authority a better promotion agency.
“The state that we met the BIA in does not meet the current needs of an investment promotion agency, and we’re restructuring the entire thing and making it more in tune with modern requirements,” said Mr Rolle.
“It will require us to invest money in a database management system which we are building now, a fully integrated and comprehensive project database management system. It will also result in a new stand-alone website.
“If you compare where we are now as an investment promotion agency and where our competitors are, the Bahamas is nowhere near where it should be. You can go to Invest Mauritius, the Jamaican promotion agency, Singapore, Trinidad, Barbados, go to any one of them, look at their website and then try to find the Bahamas Investment Authority website,” he added.
“This should bring us up to modern standards. There is some pain associated with it. The wheels of Government does not move as fast as the private sector.”
Mr Rolle said the overall restructuring should ultimately speed up the approvals process. “It will impact the process significantly because we are now automating the process and making it more user friendly,” he added.
“At some point during the second phase of the modernisation process there will be a public interface tool available across the Internet, where you would be able to go and check the status of the project or the status of your matter if it is waiting for approval. This should speed up the approval process.”
Mr Rolle, who led a BIA delegation to the CHRIS summit, said that event offered an opportunity for new investment deals for the Bahamas.
“It’s a major investment conference that we are looking at making some deals for new investment in the Bahamas. The summit has been going extremely well. We have a lot of interest and specific projects we are assisting developers with. We’re talking to developers that currently own assets in the Bahamas that they are not doing anything with now. We are encouraging them to look at ways to begin to get something out of the ground,” Mr Rolle said.