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INSIGHT: Would you invest here with declarations like this?

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

By Fred Smith QC

The PM’s edict that work permits are to be reduced simply because too many have been issued is nonsense and pure economic suicide.

The government cannot on the one hand encourage Bahamian and foreign direct investment - which by necessity requires many foreign work permits, while at the same time issuing racist, xenophobic, insecure, myopic and counterproductive pronouncements like this!

I don’t understand why the PM still thinks he’s in election mode.

It is unnecessary for him to make these grand standing public pronouncements as if he’s trying to get elected.

If I was already a foreign or domestic investor, I would make plans to close shop pretty quickly, pack my bags and go and find a more investor-friendly, politically stable, sensible, rational business environment elsewhere (but of course Bahamians can’t really do that because we still suffer under the yoke of exchange control).

Doing business in The Bahamas has become almost impossible with all of the arbitrary policies that change from day to day and between administrations. The over-control and suffocating red tape keeps growing despite the government saying it’s going to do something about it.

Dr Minnis’s latest diktat is uninformed, arbitrary, gratuitous and unnecessary.

There is no analysis as to why he has said this, it doesn’t reflect any consideration of whether or not there are or are not large projects that require work permits, to what extent permits have been issued under the Commercial Enterprises Act, and to what extent foreign or Bahamian investors have required workers and or other skilled labour to come in.

The PM has escaped the reservation AGAIN and has completely lost the foreign and domestic investment plot!

In addition, it is quite illegal and unconstitutional to have such a policy because every application for a work permit must be considered on its own particular merits with respect to the circumstances surrounding that particular application. It cannot be arbitrary.

Government cannot have a general policy of simply not issuing any further work permits or simply reducing the number of work permits to be issued because it has reached some number that seems subjectively, to offend the PM and which he has pinned to the front page of newspapers as a demagogic badge of honour for voter effect three and a half years before the next election! Yes! The sand is running out!

It is time for The Bahamas to be run by politicians and high level bureaucrats who have experience in business.

If he wants to do something sensible and make a fundamental change to entrench democracy in the Bahamas for the future, as a one-term PM, I urge him to reform the political process so that the rule of law can take root and the Bahamas can grow economically, by using his supermajority to change the constitutional structure so that Cabinet can be chosen from a broader cross-section of smart and capable members of society as opposed to only from the limited number of Members of Parliament.

Indeed, the constitutional construct whereby Cabinet is composed only of members chosen from both houses of parliament, runs counter to a democracy in which there are checks and balances between the executive and the legislative branches of government.

Despite our current constitutional Westminster model, because we are such a small country with a limited number of Members of Parliament, the executive branch of government, through the Office of the Prime Minister, holds the majority of the Members of Parliament in the governing party hostage.

They can never utter a sensible criticism or operate as a check and balance against excess and or plain stupidity by the executive because the majority are beholden to the good graces of a dictatorial Prime Minister for their pay and perks in Cabinet or salaries as chairpersons of government boards all of whom are changeable at will by the Prime Minister.

The Westminster system works in the United Kingdom (or other large British Commonwealth nations) because in the UK they have over 650 members of parliament that can hold a small Cabinet accountable. Even the Speaker of the House, Mr Moultrie, appreciates this and recently called for a reduced number of cabinet members.

The PM is inflicting economic recession on The Bahamas by scaring away current and potential domestic foreign investment.

No wonder Freeport is on life support with this kind of attitude.

Investors require a stable and predictable business and political environment; not successive governments and indeed current government’s blowing hot and cold on investment policies and laws.

The PM keeps forgetting that the only thing that will help to grow the economy through domestic and or foreign direct investment is a prolonged manifestation by The Bahamas of respect for the rule of law.

Arbitrary and wildly fluctuating political pronouncements terrify legitimate long-term business planning investors.

The PM also fails to recognise the countries that have been growing the fastest have all been countries which encourage foreign immigration so as to expand the economy with the human and capital resources they bring and by increasing critical population mass so that an economy grows.

The Bahamas is underpopulated and Freeport, Grand Bahama, is an example where we actually need 100,000 to 200,000 foreign residents to bring prosperity to the island because we Bahamians do not have the financial economic capacity to do so. If the PLP had not been so rabidly racist, insecure and xenophobic, and if successive PLP and FNM administrations (except for a brief moment of partial sanity by the first Ingraham administration between 1992 to 1997) had not continued to over-control Freeport and break the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, the Magic City would be a humming economic engine in The Bahamas where hundreds of thousands of Bahamians and foreigners would working.

That is what Freeport was originally created for.

In addition the government’s policy of continuing to approve investments everywhere other than Freeport, is also counterproductive.

The government’s policy should be to prefer or direct investors such as the $100m Paul Wynn development on Cable Beach to Freeport, Grand Bahama. There is no reason why that development could not be insisted upon in Freeport, where the land is less expensive, the infrastructure is better and there is a desperate need for jobs and economic growth.

Yet in Nassau, it has been approved on a tiny little strip of land, where there is horrible road congestion, the infrastructure cannot provide for continuing expansion, and the economy is already growing steadily.

Yet the government continues to allow foreigners who wish to invest to dictate where they wish to do so instead of having a national development plan which The Planning and Subdivision Act requires.

As Judge Bain pronounced in her recent judgment regarding the PSA in one of the Nygard Judicial Reviews, the PSA requires a National Land Use Plan to be developed for New Providence and each of the Family Islands.

Instead of making grandstanding and grandiose public pronouncements that erode confidence in the rule of law and detract from stability and thereby help to destroy opportunities for Bahamians, I urge the PM to be more circumspect and careful in his public pronouncements as domestic and foreign investors gauge the temperature for investing by what the leader of the country says.

I urge him instead to say less, adopt a policy for the immigration department to liberalise immigration, cut out all the red tape for domestic and foreign investment, and follow through on the requirements of various pieces of well drafted legislation that will actually help to grow the economy in a sensible and rational fashion.

In addition, the Government can’t be driving The Bahamas to sign on to the WTO and become part of the Global Economy while at the same time arbitrarily closing our doors to Immigration.

It is simply contradictory and makes absolutely no sense.

Say less and do more please, Prime Minister Minnis.

Comments

bogart 5 years, 5 months ago

Wid all respect ...much more than this writer of article gives to the democratically elected Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.....Mr. Smith should stop throwing mud on the duly elected Prime Mimister ....and be minful of Bahsmian saying.....small minds talk about people....big minds talk bout ideas...!!!.....sit small Mr. Smith snd let the man do his job less gapseed...!!!...... Never fails to happen...when Roc wid Doc outta da country at conference dey behind his back creating confusion....when Roc wid Doc meeting Queen Commonwealth Nations dey threatening to blackout da country.....now when Roc wid Doc in New York to address United Nations...dey wait an again tryingg to embarass PM and Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

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TheMadHatter 5 years, 5 months ago

A sudden concern for the welfare of Bahamians, or a realization that all the work permits discovered in the shanty towns census are not going to be renewed?

Dr. Minnis is putting an end to the plans of those who wish to turn the Bahamas into the Northern Haitian Territories.

Bahamians voted for him in a landslide because they wanted a better Bahamas for Bahamians. He is delivering. He will be re-elected.

If Haiti is too full of people, maybe they can do a deal with Nygard to "extend" their land bigger. Better yet, they can kick out the Catholic church and start to have sane family planning.

Bottom line though, they can whatever the Hell they want to do - just don't do it here.

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 5 months ago

"don’t understand why the PM still thinks he’s in election mode."

Listen, I was hopeful on May 11th that things would finally change. We'd been through a year of Jerome Fitzgerald and Rubis and his garbage can, the complete abandonment f any pretense that they were elected to hel the people. One month went by, nothing changed, two months went by, nothing change. I was confused,had a conversation with a friend, posted a book about what the gift could do to organize the "change" agenda. Another month went by and it hit me, I said to a friend, "he's still campaigning",

So no @bogart, this is no effort to embarrass the PM, the writer has just come to the same realization I did a year ago, there's no change agenda, there's no plan, the PM will find hot button topic after hot button topic to rule up the public and show the nation that he is on "our" side, seemingly and amazingly forgetting that, "he in charge". We got the Haitians, we got marital rape,we got hanging,and we round it off with dem foreigners. Junkanoo coming up so he could probably hit on the parade better start on time next

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John 5 years, 5 months ago

So maybe The Tribune’s toilets backed up and all the stink got on this page. Try flushing again PLEEZE!

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Dawes 5 years, 5 months ago

This is all normal of our Governments (both PLP and FNM). They are so archaic that they don't realise there is a thing called the internet and things they say can and will be read around the world. So you have the Government on the one hand saying we have a commercial enterprise bill, this is for the foreigners as we need them to come so we do this to encourage it. on the other hand we have a very xenophobic population so whenever things are politically bad we will say something against the foreigners. Now in the Governments mind these two will never read what they have said to the other one.

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DDK 5 years, 5 months ago

"I don’t understand why the PM still thinks he’s in election mode." I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU THINK YOU ARE THE PRIME MINISTER. Did you say something about packing your bags? Now THAT would be a good idea!

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bogart 5 years, 5 months ago

The PM visit to present at the United Nations on the Mandela event GIVEN ...that the NASSAU ACCORD (google nassau accord) AT A MEETING OF COMMONWEALTH NATIONS HERE IN NASSAU was the road map for the freeing of Anti aparateid activist Mandela....and the changes for coloured people. Roc wid Doc represented da WHOLE ENTIRE BAHAMALAND AT THE UNITED NATIONS in commemorating this event fron the NASSAU ACCORD... On the other hand the second paragraph....Mr. Fred Smith talking accusing about govt racist....etc is just wrong...by Mr. Fred Smith who should know what the Nassau Accord roadmap is all about the Bahamian govt, da Bahamian people hosting Commonwealth Leaders to free Nelson Mandela and bring about changes in South Africa. THE BAHAMIAN PM Presentation all impressive at the UN representing ALL Bahamians shows the world what we stand for. ......AS ALL UNITED BAHAMIAN PEOPLE...COMMON BELIEF....

On da Works Permits....everyone knows the Works Permits is about all the Haitians doing jobs the Bahamians can do. Lawning, maids. Dats why Mr Smith vexation all yucck up. AS a activist over the years Mr. Smith does have some good points....however as a resident of GB and a big time muck a muck...his views there should have generated changes by now...

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