State Minister for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said yesterday the Commercial Enterprise Bill is designed to boost the Grand Bahama economy, attracting new industries and create opportunities for Bahamians.
He stressed that tourism alone is not enough, and the bill is exactly what Grand Bahama needs.
“This government was elected to effect change and we cannot function as business as usual,” Mr Thompson said.
‘The growing of our economy will require a shift in policy and a shift in thinking.”
During a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, the minister indicated the passing of the Commercial Enterprise Bill and the Grand Bahama (Port Area) Extension of Tax Exemption Bill would increase the ease of doing business and attract investors to the island.
He believes the Commercial Enterprise Bill will attract industries, such as International Trade, Captive Insurance, Nano Technology and Data warehousing, that are not already doing business here.
“Tourism alone in Grand Bahama is not sufficient to grow our economy, and, therefore, we must attract more businesses by making it easier for them to come to Grand Bahama,” said Mr Thompson.
“We in GB have been talking about being the leader in the Technology, Arbitration, Maritime Trade, Captive Insurance, and this bill for the first-time providers an attractive package for businesses who are not here to come here and provide opportunities for Bahamians.”
The minister said the government intends to make Grand Bahama a technology hub as promised at the first GB Technology Summit.
He stated technology businesses will bring in specially skilled persons who can train Bahamians.
“This government was elected to effect change and we cannot function as business as usual, he stressed. “The growing of our economy will require a shift in policy and a shift in thinking.”
Minister Thompson explained the Commercial Enterprise Bill allows benefits to Bahamians and non-Bahamians. It also allows for special economic zones to be created all over the Bahamas, including GB where the model has previously worked, he said.
Enterprises can apply for a certificate. But before a certificate is granted, the proposed enterprise must submit for approval the nature of the business, staffing needs, and training and capacity building for Bahamians.
Mr Thompson said the certificate must be reviewed every year and an assessment must been conducted of how the plan to include Bahamians is being executed. He noted that a number of specialized industries, such as The shipyard, BORCO, and the container port, have started by a similar means, by non-Bahamians coming in and starting industry and transferring skills and knowledge to Bahamians who have now taken over the industry.
Mr Thompson said that a more recent example was the launch of the Carnival Medallion Project in Grand Bahama where Bahamians are being trained in technology that did not exist in The Bahamas.
Turning to the Grand Bahama (Port Area) Extension of Tax Exemptions Bill, he assured that the government is focused on revitalizing the GB economy.
“The bill fulfills a campaign commitment to repeal and replace the job killing Grand Bahama Incentives Bill passed by the former PLP administration, the minister said.
He stated the existing bill has never been fully brought into effect and has created an added layer of bureaucracy, red tape, and uncertainty for businesses in GB.
The minister said government will therefore provide the extension of tax incentives under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement for 20 years to all licensees along with the GBPA.
“This will create the needed certainty for business development,” Mr Thompson said.
He noted the bill also for the first time provides legislative framework for the One Stop Shop which will tremendously increase the ease of doing business in Grand Bahama.