By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Foreign direct investment (FDI) project must go beyond job creation to provide meaningful partnerships with the local community for true economic empowerment, the Exuma Chamber of Commerce president yesterday arguing that this
approach was key for it to become more than an “Out Island”.
Pedro Rolle told Tribune Business: “We could talk about high-end development all we want, but unless we have real partnerships, engaging all of the stakeholders, we are going to continue to be just an Out Island.
“Exuma can become a growing city. I’m not against investments coming to the islands, definitely not, but we need to make it more meaningful partnerships, and not just about jobs.
“A job is one thing but I think that we are entitled to more in our country. We should be owners so that we don’t keep finding ourselves in positions where people are getting laid off when a developer decides that they want to pack up and leave.”
On Monday, the Government signed a Heads of Agreement (HOA)
for a $200 million boutique resort on Children’s Bay Cay and Williams Cay, which will be owned by Swiss businesswoman and billionaire, Dona Bertarelli.
The project is expected to create 250 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs for Bahamians. Building work is set to begin in the third quarter this year, and the resort is scheduled to open in late 2019.
The Prime Minister said that with that development, the February Point project and discussions over expanding Sandals Emerald Bay to a Beaches resort, Exuma was positioning itself to be a “high-net worth destination” in the Bahamas.
Mr Rolle said: “We know the extent to which Sandals has impacted the economy. Their model has been beneficial to us for the most part, providing what I would call low-end employment.
“Sandals has been a phenomenal community partner. They have gone out of their way to be a good corporate citizen. Their example is an exceptional one but not the norm.”
He added: “It’s possible a company can come in here and make millions, but it doesn’t mean that Exumians are truly benefiting.”
Another concern, Mr Rolle said, is the rate at which this nation’s cays and prime properties are being placed into foreign ownership.
“I think we need to look at long-term leases. The money is one thing but, in the life of a country, $30 million is nothing,” said Mr Rolle.