By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
WHILE voicing its support for government initiatives aimed at improving the ease of doing business in the country, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) yesterday queried how the Commercial Enterprises Bill (CEB) would benefit Bahamian businesses.
The Minnis administration has argued the Bill “seeks to build a stronger and more stable economy”. But in a statement the DNA said: “The DNA supports government initiatives aimed at improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas and making The Bahamas’ business environment more investor friendly. However, we find it curious that this legislation is being pushed ahead of other pressing matters confronting the Bahamian masses.” The DNA noted the CEB seeks to fast track work permit approvals and empowers the Minister of Financial Services to usurp the powers of the Director of Immigration by granting certificates for work permits to investors after meeting certain criteria.
“The fundamental question is whether the name of the Bill is a misnomer as it appears to focus more on amendments to our immigration laws and policies. Further, it is unclear why the Minister responsible is the Minister of Financial Services when the industries in this legislation covers more than financial services,” the party argued.
The statement continued: “The CEB grants the Minister unilateral authority to determine which industries can be granted fast track work permits. The Minister also has the unilateral authority to designate specified commercial enterprise zones and in consultation with the Minister of Finance, economic incentives for foreign businesses. It is noteworthy that this administration has prioritised the tabling of a Bill which seems to place more emphasis on the creation of commercial zones for foreign direct investors over Bahamians even though the Minnis administration campaigned on providing economic zones and tax relief for Bahamians.”
The DNA argued rather than focus on reforming the Department of Immigration to be more efficient and effective, the Minnis administration has chosen to take a ‘shortcut’ by concentrating significant powers in a ‘Super Minister’ without checks and balances.
“The DNA would like to know what is in this Bill for Bahamian business? The Prime Minister had announced the establishment of an Ease of Doing Business Committee (EDBC) which would make recommendations aimed at making it easier for local and foreign enterprises to do business in The Bahamas. The Bahamian people deserve to know whether the EDBC has produced a report and whether this report will be released to the public. Are we putting the proverbial cart before the horse?” the DNA queried.