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'Something Wrong' With Construction Ease Fall

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

A leading contractor yesterday said it was “disturbing” that this nation had dropped 17 spots to 92nd in the world when it came to processing construction permits, telling Tribune Business: “Something is wrong with that picture”.

Stephen Wrinkle, the Bahamian Contractor’s Association’s immediate-past president, told Tribune Business: “I think they need to make an investigation and find out what the problem is there. I know that there were issues with the Planning Department and they have relocated.

“Hopefully, that will help expedite the planning process, but to drop 17 points, I can’t understand why. I don’t know what they have changed to be downgraded that significantly. As far as I know the permit process hasn’t changed. Something is wrong with that picture. You can’t drop 17 points and not be held accountable.”

The Bahamas dropped 13 places to 97th in the World Bank’s overall 2015 Ease of Doing Business rankings. The 2015 rankings showed the Bahamas fell from 84th spot last year, dropping in six out of the 10 categories that are used to assess 189 nations.

This nation maintained its 125th spot when it came to ‘enforcing contracts’, and managed to improve its rankings in just three categories.

One of these was a nine spot jump in ‘trading across borders’, where the Bahamas rose from 72nd to 63rd spot. The Bahamas achieved its biggest improvement - and highest rating - in the ease of ‘paying taxes’ category. This nation jumped from 45th to 31st in the world in this category.

Mr Wrinkle said yesterday: “Without laying blame at the doorstep of the Ministry of Works, I think further inquiries need to be made with regards to what the criteria is. It’s easy to jump on the Ministry and blame them, but I have been down there many times and it‘s a very busy place based on the nature of what they do.

“My personal experience hasn’t changed from last year to this year. I really didn’t see an decline in the speed of the process. That ranking is pretty disturbing; that is disturbing. I think that the Permanent Secretary and the Minister would all be extremely concerned about this and would be keen to find out why this is happening and seek ways to remedy this. This has been an extremely slow year for construction.”

Back in June, Deputy Prime Minister and minister of works, Philip Davis, said the Government was planning to amend the Planning and Subdivision Act to “simplify” the process for development applications.

It had also recommended that changes be made regarding which projects require, or are likely to require, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).

Mr Davis said at the time that the Department of Physical Planning would be moving into a new office space, which will provide “adequate space” to hold the critical public hearings of the Town Planning Committee, reviewing “important and required issues of the Planning and Subdivision Act”.

“The department has been severely challenged by the lack of space and inadequate staffing,” said Mr Davis. With this move, the department expects to recruit additional staff to replace staff lost through attrition and retirement.

“These recruits are necessary for the department to function properly and fulfill the mandate given it under the Planning and Subdivision Act.”

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