THE Commercial Enterprises Bill’s $250,000 investment threshold should have been “a bit higher”, a University of the Bahamas economist argued yestrerday.
Rupert Pinder, addressing the Rotary Club of West Nassau, said the $250,000 benchmark for foreign companies applying under the Bill did not match the level of incentives being granted.
“I was disappointed with the $250,000 threshold. If the intent is to attract foreign direct investment, when you look at some of the concessions being given by way of work permits and that sort of thing, in my view the bar should have been set a bit higher,” he argued.
Officially known as an Act for the Designation of Commercial Enterprises and Specified Economic Zones in the Bahamas, the Commercial Enterprises Bill “seeks to liberalise the granting of work permits to an enterprise that wishes to establish itself in the Bahamas, and requires work permits for its management team and key personnel”. The company’s investment, however, must be a minimum of $250,000.
The legislation enables a “specified commercial enterprise” to obtain an Investments Board certificate granting it a specific number of work permits for certain positions. The certificate, which will initially be issued for one year and can be renewed, would allow key personnel to set up the company’s physical operations in the Bahamas before they obtained a work permit.
Such a permit must be applied for within 30 days of their entry, and the bill mandates the Director of Immigration to make a decision on approval within 14 days of receiving the application. If the director does not respond within that timeframe, the work permit will be “automatically deemed to have been granted”.
Work permits issued under the Bill’s provisions will be for a three-year period, and are renewable for the same duration.
Mr Pinder said he was disappointed by the level of debate over the Bill.
“For a piece of legislation that persons were arguing was supposed to be so revolutionary I was just surprised at the low level of debate,” he said.
“The other thing I expected a bit more debate with is the 14-day turnaround.
“The question is whether or not we have the resources in place to give that kind of turnaround.”