The government’s new Commercial Enterprises Bill will ensure “that Bahamians are the priority,” despite the fact it will “liberalise the granting of work permits” to foreign companies.
Officially known as an Act for the Designation of Specified 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.”
However, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Anthony Newbold noted yesterday the company’s investment “must be a minimum of $250,000.”
Mr Newbold said the bill “limits the amount of any work permits that will need to be issued, ensuring that Bahamians are the priority.”
“[The] bill will also require investing companies to make an investment in training Bahamian employees so that they are able to work and prosper in these new roles that will be created and ensuring that Bahamian employees are given the opportunity to work at all levels of the company making the investment.
“The government will continue its move towards creating the environment that the country needs to grow economically, ensuring stable long-term employment for many Bahamian families. The prime minister has spoken often about creating a level playing field and a meritocracy for those who are willing and prepared to earn their way into higher paying jobs.”
According to Mr Newbold, not only is the bill expected to “lead to higher paying jobs,” it will “allow the private sector to drive job creation and not the government,” and promote “diversity in the economy.”
He added: “The bill will encourage investment in the Bahamas by allowing companies from many different sectors to make investments in [the] country, ensuring that Bahamians will be able to work in a diversified economy that will not depend on tourism alone. [It also] allows for companies to be located throughout the country and not just one targeted area.”
Mr Newbold also noted this bill will aid “the introduction of the technology hub in Grand Bahama and other industries that could emerge in other islands.”
According to Tribune Business, if passed into law as is, the legislation would enable 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. They can only be revoked on grounds of “public safety, public morality or national security”.
The bill will be debated in the House of Assembly today.