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Minister Clarifies Which Industries Can Qualify For Bill

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Financial Services, Trade and Industry Minister Brent Symonette.

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

THE Minnis administration missed it’s opportunity to “properly clarify” that only investments in a handful of specified industries can qualify for the proposed Commercial Enterprises Bill, admitted Financial Services, Trade and Industry Minister Brent Symonette on Friday.

Pushing back against much of the criticism that has faced the bill since it was introduced, the St Anne’s MP, throughout a presentation at the Rotary Club of East Nassau, stressed that the bill would only address operations in a set schedule of industries.

That schedule, according to Mr Symonette, includes operations in Captive Insurance, Reinsurance, Mutual Fund Administration, Arbitration, Wealth Management, International Trade, International Arbitrage, Computer Programming, Software Design and Writing; Bioinformatics and Analytics; Maritime Trade, Nano Technology, Biomedical Industries, Boutique Health Facilities, Data Storage or Warehousing, Aviation Approved Maintenance Operations, Aviation Registration and Call Centres.

“As you heard here today, the bill is restricted to the industries mentioned in the schedule, full stop,” Symonette contended. “It is a very clear bill. It is a very precise bill that deals with those issues – the granting of work permits and the granting of investment certificates.”

Asked to respond specifically to the controversy surrounding the $250,000 threshold proposed by the government, Mr Symonette added: “The threshold, as I have said before and I will repeat, is at $250,000 because in a place, something like a call centre, the issue you are talking about is persons with a bank of computers. So it is not like you need $1m to attract these areas where you can start these programmes.”

He continued: “I used in my talk today at Rotary the question of the bulk chartering of ships. Those ships don’t physically come to the Bahamas, so all you need is a telephone and a rolodex. But you may employ 30 people in the process of doing it.

“So that is where the $250,000 threshold will not be that great. Now, those people will rent homes, buy cars and go to the grocery store; none of that is included in the $250,000, it is the initial investment in terms of telephones, computer systems, whatever.”

The Commercial Enterprises Bill passed in the House of Assembly with unanimous support from the Free National Movement last week Wednesday and is headed to the Senate.

The bill aims to liberalise the granting of work permits to enterprises that wish to establish themselves in the Bahamas in niche sectors and require work permits for management and key personnel.

If passed, the bill would allow foreigners or Bahamians to receive “economic concessions” if they establish specified types of businesses in the Bahamas with an investment of no less than $250,000. Such businesses would be entitled to a specified number of work permits for executives, managers and people with “specialised knowledge”.

Mr Symonette on Friday said he doesn’t expect any changes to be made to the bill moving forward, calling the legislation “very specified” and “clear”.

He also indicated the Cabinet was expected to meet Saturday to further review the level of ease Bahamians face in doing business across the country.

Mr Symonette contended the time was now for the government to do all it could to diversify the economy and encourage business.

Debate on the bill begins in the Senate on Monday.

Comments

OldFort2012 2 weeks ago

I agree with everything Brent says above.

The logical next question is: why have ANY capital requirement limit? Where does $250,000 come from? It is just plucked out thin air. It is meaningless.

The capital requirement for software is literally an office and 5 computers. That can all be had for $10,000. On the other hand, I would challenge anyone to get into nanotechnology without investing at least $100m.

On the realistic side, the total amount of people who are going to come to invest in Nanotechnology or Data Storage & Warehousing is ZERO. Our only hope is that we can attract 20-30 software guys and that is about that.

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ThisIsOurs 2 weeks ago

I believe that's been the purpose of the bill all along, I noticed a narrative for quite some time about us not having "any programmers".

When you point out, wait a second, we do have programmers resident here today, they come with the next argument, well they don't know "this" language. And that sounds reasonable to the larger percentage of the population who won't take into account that programmers have to learn new languages all the time. However there's a vast number of languages to choose from. The only reason to pick one over the other is economic opportunity. If my current or potential employer is using Chocolate.Net...why invest the majority of your time on Sprinkle.OS?

"Unless", the govt makes a proclamation, "to all Bahamian programmers, a new company will be opening in June with three open positions. Brush up on your Sprinkle.OS skills if you want a chance at these jobs."

There's a lot they could be doing other than sayng, "we don't have programmers". It's in their personal pocket interests not to do anything

They've neatly hidden the real goal among a list of irrational industry selections. There will be no massive job creation, no high paying jobs in the inner city, no employment fir single mothers. Someone "in the know" wants a quick path and no obstacles to open a software company with a few expatsin perpetuity, zero Bahamians, and they were planning this BEFORE the election.

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OldFort2012 2 weeks ago

To be fair, I have said from the beginning that employment numbers from this Bill will be very small. However, FUTURE OPPORTUNITY may be high, depending on how it is enacted and who is attracted. Overall, you will probably agree, we are better off with it than without it. Better to have a slim hope than no hope whatsoever.

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ThisIsOurs 2 weeks ago

There will be no future opportunity. If they need to expand in the high paying jobs they will bring in more expats. They may hire a Bahamian maid or a messenger though

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John2 2 weeks ago

There are Bahamians around the world who have expressed an interest to the government in returning home and starting businesses in most of the areas listed above. Some of them work in silicone valley with companies like google and facebook and were at the recently concluded grand Bahama technology summit.In the other areas we have young bright university students studying in those areas presently thus the futuristic aspect of this bill .

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 5 days ago

We have bright Bahamians right here in those areas. They just had no interest in looking for them. They keep repeating "there are none" that's pretty definitive

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ThisIsOurs 2 weeks ago

I notice the word "billion" in the link. That's what you call an investment.

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jamaicaproud 2 weeks ago

Yah man. I think your government needs to start beating the streets to get people to invest. However, know this, no one will invest without the ability to stay and watch their investment long term, without immigration stress.

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 5 days ago

And that's fine. If they're bringing a significant ethical environmentally friendly legitimate investment, no one will have an objection. If Google or FB or Microsoft set up here tomorrow, praise God. But not these rinkydink operations that will pull out in two years after they've made their money having either not employed a single Bahamian or employed Bahamians at low level positions

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ThisIsOurs 2 weeks ago

"As you heard here today, the bill is restricted to the industries mentioned in the schedule, full stop,"

Actually, "comma"....the minister has the right to adjust the schedule at ANY time, that could be the day after it passes the senate.

The story keeps changing.

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ThisIsOurs 2 weeks ago

It is not a very clear bill. It is a sloppy bill made no better by the inclusion of the words "Bahamians too". If it were concise or clear, whether you appreciate his input or not , Hubert Ingraham would not have raised an objection.

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sheeprunner12 2 weeks ago

Soooooooo, where will they set up these aviation maintenance facilities, boutique clinics or call centres????? .......... Can a CEZ for each niche industry be set up on a Family Island???? Then this will be worthwhile for Bahamians to support and be hopeful that it will impact the WHOLE country .......... If this is only for Nassau and GB, well it is the status quo.

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ThisIsOurs 2 weeks ago

I'm wondering if they even have to be here physically to reap the benefits. If not, then it's a complete scam.

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banker 2 weeks ago

You have obvious not heard of eResidency -- in Estonia. I know old guy lawyers from the Caribbean who have signed up for it. https://e-resident.gov.ee/

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 5 days ago

No I haven't heard about eresidency in Estonia, but my point was not that you can't work online, there are tons of models that support that.

What I meant was, if theyre not living here, then there's no rent, no car, no gardener, no maid, no grocery purchase, no restaurant, no movies etc etc...all that "economic spinoff" talk fades into a scam

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seamphony 2 weeks ago

erm ok folks but who can even correctly pronounce this list of industries that someone obviously copy pasted from some website eh? the fancier the name the more scammy it gets.

my second point is that is not the way the water flows on this island. the only types of immigrants this place currently attracts are the ones fleeing poverty in their country and the occasional teacher/doctor/nurse/accountant ones( mostly spouses) that give them a flexibility to move around. who in their right mind is going to move to a small island to start a business where they need to spend at least half a million on a place to stay, pay 55% customs on a car, spend $300 a week on bread and milk at Supervalu, rent an office for over $4500 a month and trying to hire from a small pool of qualified applicants in addition to taken advantage of by many local lawyers whom you need to even buy toilet paper for your company. exchange controls, limited number of banks, no good public schools, bad roads/crazy traffic, like 5 overpriced places to eat. it's just not worth it.

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TalRussell 2 weeks ago

Comrades! Who could've made up that but 7 months after being elected to govern - the most influential of Minnis's crown ministers would have to go public to admit that the red shirts cabinet's exclusionary of natives from competing side by side with Expat's - was a stupid idea to begin with. Seems Brent is eager to pretend the red shirts cabinet are not in business of snubbing the natives and to prove it just wants to become the head driver the Red Clowns Leadership Jitney?

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TheMadHatter 2 weeks ago

I'm here thinking perhaps Government should repeal this Act of Law and send out a notice to ALL international travel agents, airports from which planes originate to fly here, and all of our Bahamas based hotel parent companies informing them in writing, along with placing a VERY LARGE sign near the runways at all airports in the Bahamas, and writing on the runway tarmac in large letters visible from space satellites (so that it will receive CNN coverage) the words:

NO FOREIGNERS ALLOWED (except Haitians)

This is clearly the policy that the Bahamian people want implemented. Stop ALL foreign tourists (and i don't know any other kind) from visiting the Bahamas, kick out ALL foreigners employed here, except Haitians - and hand out fresh newly minted passports for any and all persons of Haitian descent that present themselves with or without documentation to their nearest Dept of Immigration office.

Bahamian Families can take up collection at church to help pay their children's college fees abroad and hope they can get residency abroad and achieve "opportunity" there.

Mr. Symonette, please apologize, repent to God, and resign your office. You are wasting time trying to convince most people. Even re-listing specifically the industries related, has had no effect. Spend the rest of your life on the street speaking with telephone poles - it will be more effective Sir, and the poles will be more attentive to your words.

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DDK 2 weeks ago

"Aviation Approved Maintenance Operations, Aviation Registration and Call Centres" sticks out like a sore thumb!

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bogart 2 weeks ago

If the purpose is to bring in foreign investors capital to create jobs for Bahamians then why limit it to certain industries listed?? This should be open to all areas WITH a BAHAMIAN PANEL of experts to decide which is desired and suitable. Many Bahamian businesses can benefit from investors who can provide means for them to vertically and horizontally expand their business. Ie scrap cars dealers may benefit from metal shredders to shread cars into smaller metallic contents, perhaps some fishermen can benefit from investors to bring costly machinery to manufacture assemble boat engines, aragonite harvesting to glass manufacture sand, solar panels etcetc. What if we have one nano technology invrstor hiring 3 persons but a boat manufacturer wanting to hire 200 workers? Why not use the budget to market the whole range to the whole world instead of nit picking to market to a few segments and let the Bahamian Investment panel decide?

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realfreethinker 2 weeks ago

Here we go again with the protectionist mumbo jumbo. open up the market please. I am still wandering about you all who say Bahamians will lose jobs. There aint any jobs to lose The bill at least give us an opportunity to create some jobs. If an investor comes in and starts a business and hires 5 Bahamians and 10 of his own what's wrong with that. That's 5 more Bahamians working who would otherwise be unemployed

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TalRussell 2 weeks ago

Comrades! You makes me laugh considering the numbers houses have long started-up on shoeshine box outlay cash...... far less than red shirts current $250,000 Expat's investment. They been running piggybacking operations off the investments of US state lottery operations - which they're still paying out on - regardless their fancy gambling regularization licenses.We only months back even had a situation where one numbers house had refused pay off the bets on US numbers because of how the bet was unfairly advantage placed? The Bahamaland Gaming Commission - never said nothing about that matter So, will the red shirts now be allowing Expat numbers houses startups to piggyback off US and other countries lotteries. If not, why not?

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TheMadHatter 2 weeks ago

Bogart do not worry. I am a supporter of this Bill but rest assured the people are never going to live out another 5 years on promises. I predicted in August that if this govt does not provide enough positive reality for both the regular folks in this country (who simply live based on their wallet and their feelings) and also convince political watchdogs like us that we are on the right track then there will be a march and shutdown by May. Two weeks later i was told that a well known former MP had predicted March.

I am certain that the govt is well aware that the pressure is on and that is why they are doing so many things so quickly. KP is off on a trip to San Marino in a few days. They working on Lucaya. New cruise line signed. Dump contract under way. Lots of stuff and dealing with giant debt and old generators and Clifton oil leak.

So far i am encouraged. I am not an FNM but i hope he does well because i am a Bahamian.

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 6 days ago

That should be the sentiments of ALL right-thinking Bahamians.

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 5 days ago

Agreed. I just wish they'd do it so it looks cohesive. But maybe it's my pseudo-ADD talking

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BahamasForBahamians 1 week, 5 days ago

I hate Brent Symonette but I am excited about this bill.

PLP's should do little to fight this one.

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banker 1 week, 5 days ago

Y'all would not believe what is happening behind the scenes.

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Truism 1 week, 5 days ago

Why after passing a bill that clearly states it's intent do we have ministers and commentators adding things to this bill that clearly are not stated in it? I guess we are trying to make a cake right after baking it. LMAO

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