By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell yesterday criticised Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest for suggesting that recent comments from the PLP regarding the Commercial Enterprises Bill could ruin the Bahamas’ international reputation with investors.
In a statement, Mr Mitchell said he is surprised the East Grand Bahama MP finally “recognises the world was watching” what goes on in The Bahamas.
On Monday, Mr Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian Official Opposition Leader Phillip “Brave” Davis’ statement that the PLP would repeal the CEB is “wrong and dangerous.”
“For them to have made this statement in a time when we are trying to attract investment, when we are managing a very fragile economy… I think is very unfortunate,” Mr Turnquest said.
In a statement on Sunday, Mr Davis warned potential foreign investors to “think carefully” before accepting the benefits contained in the CEB and vowed that the PLP would repeal the bill if re-elected.
“The Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest really has a nerve. He has suddenly found religion in the sense that he now recognises that the world is watching what is said in The Bahamas,” Mr Mitchell said.
“The PLP was aware of this all the time. That is why the PLP warned Mr Turnquest from the day he took on the job of minister of finance that he ought to be careful what he says about our finances because what he says about the state of the finances of our country could hurt or damage our country. Mr Turnquest in his arrogance ignored us and continued with his loose talk which led to the outlook for the economy being changed to negative. He went about saying the country was broke, implied that the PLP had stolen the VAT money, then said himself that the PLP used $42m earmarked for hurricane relief to buy the last general election. All of those FNM inspired brickbats were false and untrue. We warned them that it would backfire on him and the FNM. We remind him that a fisherman does not call his own fish foul.”
“Now that the PLP has said it will repeal the Commercial Enterprises Bill, he suddenly finds that the world is interested in what goes on in The Bahamas. Indeed they are interested and we repeat that if the bill passes, it will be repealed by the PLP when it comes to office,” the statement said. “No less a person than the former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham today [Tuesday] intervened in the press to say that no bill should be passed without the agreement of the PLP on so fundamental a matter as immigration. Remember Mr Minister of Finance when you dig one grave, dig two.”
On Monday, Mr Ingraham attacked the controversial bill, saying the Minnis administration should “rethink the bill and make necessary adjustments”. He told The Tribune if the Minnis administration wants to adjust the country’s immigration policies on work permits, it should not only do so in concert with the PLP but it should also take a comprehensive approach rather than a piecemeal one.
“Many investments are stifled and are not properly proceeded with because of immigration regulations and procedures,” Mr Ingraham said. “That’s a fact. It would be good for The Bahamas if both political parties can agree on an immigration policy that becomes a national immigration policy so that when the PLP is in and the FNM is out they don’t change it and the FNM doesn’t change it when it gets in so everyone knows this is the national policy of The Bahamas.”
The CEB would allow foreigners or Bahamians to receive “economic concessions” if they establish specified types of businesses in the Bahamas with an investment of no less than $250,000.
Such businesses would be entitled to a specified number of work permits for executives, managers and people with “specialised knowledge.”