By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT – Minister of Grand Bahama Michael Darville and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell met with industrial companies on Grand Bahama to initiate dialogue on labour and immigration issues and policies concerning that sector.
There was a large turnout for the Industrial Stakeholders Forum at the Pelican Bay Resort. It is the first held by the government here on Grand Bahama.
Minister Darville felt the meeting was very successful and allowed private sector partners to engage in “open dialogue” with government.
“The purpose of the meeting was for the industrial sector, which is the key engine that drives our economy, to have a frank discussion with immigration and labour,” he told the media.
Mr Darville said there were some “misunderstandings” among industrial sector partners regarding some of the new immigration policies.
“The Department of Immigration implemented quite a bit of new policies which are intended to put the local Bahamian workforce first, and while initiating the policies we think there may have been a misunderstanding between the industrial sector and government.
“And this meeting was to clarify a lot of the misconceptions that are out there and to hear what their concerns are so we can do a better job as the government to expedite the processing of applications for employment, and the issuing of labour and immigration certificates here on the island.
“But ultimately, the whole concept is to ensure that the industrial sector understands the importance of training and helping the government to prepare the local workforce to capitalise on new job opportunities that will come when we moved out the economic recession that we are presently in.”
Mr Darville noted that large numbers of foreign nationals on work permits are employed at the industrial companies while many Bahamians remain untrained and unemployed.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell says his ministry is committed to putting Bahamian first.
“There is no question, we have a pledge in the Immigration sector of trying to put Bahamians first so that the first call on the economic resources in the country, that call comes to, for, from Bahamians, and that call is answered in their favour.
“I think the sector appreciates that. And there was a frank exchange in views about how we deal with some of the issues of training and preparing the workforce for the challenges of Grand Bahama and its economy.”
Minister Mitchell said he looks forward to continued dialogue in the future with the private sector.
“I hope that I am able to come back and participate in more future dialogue. In order for GB to continue to develop, this conversation needs to continue and it’s through dialogue that one come to understanding of various policies,” he said.
GB Chamber of Commerce president Barry Malcolm commended the government for hosting the forum.
He noted that the industrial sector is important to the overall economy of the Bahama. It is important, he said, that dialogue is initiated when issues and concerns arise with policy.
“I commend those involved and who made possible for this to happen. I look forward to ongoing discussions that will lead to greater understanding and partnership between industrial sector and the authorities,” he said.
Marco Rolle, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, said Minister Shane Gibson fully supports the work of the Ministry of Grand Bahama and initiatives for the revival of Grand Bahama’s economy.
“We recognise the importance of bringing about initiatives that will help reduce the high rate of unemployment in the country, and the need to improve upon the whole processing of labour applications,” he said.
“We recognise that there are some challenges, and we are working on a fast track protocol which has not yet been finalized, but we were able to share some elements of that today which went well with the stakeholders.”