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Gb Needs To ‘Break Away From Two-Sector Economy’

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The private sector remains optimistic about Grand Bahama’s future, its Chamber of Commerce president said yesterday, although the island may need to “widen” its economic model beyond the industrial and tourism sectors.

Mick Holding told Tribune Business while at the Grand Bahama Business Outlook conference that while the industrial sector had been less affected by developments in the Bahamian economy, the island’s tourism sector is “in the doldrums”.

“Our economy has two major sectors; the industrial and tourism sectors,” he said. “The industrial sectors markets are generally global markets, and they are less affected by what’s going on in the local economy and continue to generally grow and improve our economy.

“It’s sustaining jobs while our tourism sector seems to continue to suffer knock after knock. The tourism industry is in the doldrums. We need something to revitalise it. We may need to look at the product that we offer here. We have got sun, sand and sea, but so do a lot of other destinations.”

Mr Holding added: “We have our proximity to the United States, and I think that is a major plus, but we may need to look at new tourist ideas and attractions. I know of one or two businesses persons who have a few ideas on a new product. We have an industrial sector and tourism sector, but what other sectors can we attract here? The more sectors that we have, the more resilient we can become.”

Mr Holding said the agricultural sector could be worth exploring. “I think we need to break away from the two-sector model and look for something else. I’m not saying that agriculture is the one, but it is an idea. We may need to look at widening that sector model,”he added

Mr Holdom said the Chamber of Commerce was currently a survey among its membership. “We are going out and meeting every single one of our members,” he said.

“We are asking them lots of questions, and one of them is: ‘How optimistic do you feel about the future for Grand Bahama?’ Surprisingly, in some ways there is a good deal of optimism out there. There is a vibrance, not everywhere but throughout the business community, and we need to harness that optimism and make things work. We have all been talking, but talking isn’t enough. Action is what is required and we have to do something.”

Comments

banker 2 years, 7 months ago

Here is something. Create an economic zone outside of the Port Authority. Only beat the Port Authority at their own game. When an investor walks into the Port Authority, the first thing that they see is fresh meat. It costs money to put in an application. There are fees at every turn. The Port Authority cuts steaks off their racehorses. So you compete with them, and make them irrelevant.

What you do, is follow the pattern of Cayman Enterprise City. You find a large empty building (the one that Obie W. went bankrupt in will do if it is not within the limits of the Port Authority). You cut it into offices. Put in phones, faxes and hire a few staff. One of them is a receptionist. Another is a business development officer. And then you invite knowledge economy entrepreneurs only to open up business in the economic zone. They get maximum services for minimal amounts. They get tax benefits. They get to bring in their cars, and household goods duty free. They get an American dollar bank account. They get business licences for a payment of less than $200. They get work permits for free. The businesses get to import stuff tax free. They get approvals within 10 business days. After setting up, they are encouraged to hire Bahamians, but not mandated to. You want tech startups, you want pharmaceutical companies, you want knowledge aggregators, you want business agents, you want research companies -- both in hard science and social research. You want accountancies. You want any sort of business that requires a tertiary education to operate.

The first thing that you know, is that they will start to employ Bahamians -- first at the entry level jobs, but sooner or later, they will attract Bahamian talent. The seeds of knowledge industries sprout quickly. Look at Jamaica. They are taking business away from India in web design and that all happened because they built a knowledge (ICT) industry in 10 years.

Grand Bahama would be the perfect place to start. And the added benefit, is that it would put the port authority out of business or cause it to change and adapt to actually do some good for Grand Bahama.

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