By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A leading contractor yesterday said it would be three-four months before the sector gained a “true appreciation” for how it would be impacted by signs of an improving economy, amid increases in planning permit applications.
Godfrey Forbes, the Bahamian Contractors Association’s president, told Tribune Business he had “personally” detected “a bit of an increase” in construction industry work, with further foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in the pipeline.
Mr Forbes cited China State Construction’s plans for the British Colonial Hilton, and other investments in the Junkanoo Beach area, plus expansions at Albany, Baker’s Bay in Abaco and Cotton Bay in Eleuthera, as potentially providing increased business opportunities for Bahamian contractors and workers.
“There have been some signs of improvement taking place, but as for how much it’s going to impact the industry, we have to wait another three to four months before we get a true appreciation of that impact,” Mr Forbes told Tribune Business.
His comments backed up Department of Physical Planning statistics released yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, who said planning applications related to building permits, shop licenses, home-based businesses, preliminary supports of approval, land severances and advertisements had all increased year-over-year since 2011.
He told the House of Assembly: “Our data reveals that the number of each type of application has generally risen from year to year. I was happy to note the incremental increase to 12 per cent in home-based business applications over the years 2011-2014, and the 94.6 per cent increase in shop licence applications for the same period.
“These figures indicate a resurgence of the entrepreneurial spirit. When we further examine data coming out of the Department of Physical Planning, we also see a 41 per cent increase in preliminary support of application over the same period. These are good facts. The economy is indeed turning around and these numbers are indicative of that.”
Home-based business permit applications had risen from 3,348 in 2011 to 3,762 in 2014, while shop licence applications grew from 886 in 2011 to 1,724 last year. Preliminary support of applications rose from 124 in 2011 to 175 in 2014.
However, Mr Davis provided no application date for the intervening years of 2012 and 2013, while 2011 is likely to provide some relatively easy comparatives given that the economy was still struggling to emerge from the 2008-2009 recession (many would argue it still is).
Mr Forbes said as much yesterday, telling Tribune Business: “2011 was that time we were going through some of that crisis. That is a fact.”
The Association president expressed hope that falling oil prices would also benefit the industry and construction-related investment projects, while adding that the industry was “still a distance away” from returning to pre-recession levels.
Mr Davis, meanwhile, said the Department of Physical Planning was working on amendments to the Planning and Subdivision Act.
“Work is also progressing on the draft of a Sign Code,” he added. “This regulation document is sorely needed to control the proliferation of illegal signage that continues to appear in and around our most precious amenity areas, including scenic drives, roundabouts and major road junctions.
“The Code will balance the needs of the business community and sign industry with the need to protect the built and natural environment from visual clutter. The new Code will also take into account advanced technology in the advertising industry while imposing new penalties and a fee structure.”