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Investment Fears On Work Visa Plan

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Requiring seven-year work permit holders to leave The Bahamas for one year before an employer can reapply for their return is “not investment positive”, the government has been warned.

photo

Jeffrey Beckles

Jeffrey Beckles, pictured, the Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, told Tribune Business that this element of the proposed Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill threatens to undermine Bahamian and foreign investor confidence at a time when The Bahamas needs to enhance its ability to attract capital investment.

While placing a maximum seven-year limit on how long work visas (permits) can be granted for posed no problems, Mr Beckles said mandating that key employees effectively take a year’s sabbatical before they can return to The Bahamas would disrupt business continuity, operations and - potentially - further hirings and expansions by companies.

The concerns centre on the Bill’s section 105, which deals with “term limits on work visas”. It proposes a maximum seven-year limit on work visas, whether they are renewed annually or one is granted for the full term, with the clock running from the date when the expatriate employee first entered The Bahamas - either as a visitor or to work.

While foreign workers coming and going on short-term work visas are exempt, the Bill’s section 105 (3) adds: “Upon the expiration of the term limit set by subsection (1), and whether such visas are granted and held continuously or not, the worker shall leave The Bahamas and shall not be eligible for the grant or renewal of a work visa until he has ceased to hold a work visa for not less than a year after he has left The Bahamas.”

Given that Brent Symonette, minister of financial services, trade and industry and Immigration, on Tuesday said the Bill’s release into the public domain was “premature”, it remains to be seen whether this proposal survives in its current form.

Mr Beckles, speaking prior to Mr Symonette’s announcement, said the enforced “sabbatical” - rather than the seven-year work visa limit - had caused most concern among the Chamber and private sector.

“If it’s seven years at a time it’s far better than what we have now,” he told Tribune Business. “I don’t see it as creating an issue.” However, when it came to the enforced departure after seven years, Mr Beckles added: “That needs to be looked at.

“When you start talking about leaving for a year, and when you start talking about investment dollars and investor confidence, I don’t see it as a positive thing.... At the end of the day, The Bahamas needs to advance its attraction to the global investment community rather than take away from it.”

An enforced one-year absence is likely to be especially problematic for high-level expatriates that act as the “owner’s representative”, and hold positions such as president, managing director and chief executive, where their employer will not want to lose such valuable and skilled employees.

Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) principal, told Tribune Business there was “a massive disconnect” between education and Immigration on one side, and the private sector on the other, as companies were frequently forced to seek expatriate management to enable them to train and hire “under educated” Bahamians.

“We don’t have a robust public education system that prepares people for the workforce. Seventy percent of kids leaving public school get a ‘D-’ or less,” Mr Myers told Tribune Business. “We’ve got to focus on GDP to get things going, and can’t increase the cost of work permits and think that’s going to bring faster growth.

“If we don’t fix our education problem, businesses will be forced to go outside and find competent management that is capable of hiring some of our under-educated and teach those people skills that allow GDP to grow.

“There appears to be a massive disconnect between Immigration and the macro conditions. It’s a massive disconnect between Immigration, education and the macro conditions; just a huge disconnect. It’s like the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. It’s very frustrating.”

Comments

banker 1 year, 6 months ago

As a country that relies on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), we keep inventing ways to make it difficult for investors. For example, the government is/has passed an H1-B visa programme for skilled help in the Grand Bahama Tech Hub. Suppose a company hires 200 people under the visa plan, rents, builds or buys a building, creates an IT infrastructure, and seven years later, it has to send away its work-force for a year. My god, the country is run by retards. Where is common sense?

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Chucky 1 year, 6 months ago

A nation who's citizenry knows it's worthy, willing and able to compete will open its doors and welcome the world, its people and competition.

Our nation, and people know that we cannot compete, we're not able to get up to standard, and long since given up on trying.

As such a nation, and people, we must keep our guard up and tight controlls over who comes and why, and what they do here and how long they stay.

If we dont, or we allow "them" to come, and to stay, and allow "them" access, in time we will become a new and different nation or citzenry. Darwinism ensures the stronger and smarter will wash over the lazy and weak.

Eventually we'd be a nation of successful people, though our Bahamian ancestorial routes will become highly diluted.

Those of us that are here now, need these protections to ensure we have the easiest chance to thrive. And we need to have these protections to ensure the same for our future generations.

While we may not rise to the level of our nations & citizenrys potential, with protection we can preserve the bloodlines.

So whats your choice, preserve what we can at the expense of a brighter more successful future, albeit diluted Bahamian future?

Of course the choice is obvious, we will use our xenophobic ways to protect ourselves at the expense of our future.

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banker 1 year, 6 months ago

The Bahamian bloodlines een no prize. The gene pool needs a little chlorine. Bahamian women are 8 time more likely to either carry or express the breast cancer gene. The probability of consanguinity between any Bahamian person within the last three generations is 50%. My colleague at the bank (in Nassau) married a man of Haitian ancestry to prevent gene mutation and inbreeding. With the high percentage of Bahamian women having children by multiple men, the genetics is so inbred that we really need new genetic material for future generations to prevent expression of negative genetic traits.

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 6 months ago

Every progressive country in the world puts their citizens first. America, China, Singapore, England, Australia, Germany. They ALL promote nation building with their natives. Sure they have immigration policies but it's not so out of wack that literally any foreigner is favoured over a native. It is a lack of vision that has us saying Bahamians cant so let the foreigners do it.

Are Bahamians behind? Yes? Can we catch up? Yes. It takes vision. The REAL problem is power in this country needs easily bribable low income low education voters to maintain power.

And no country in the face of a 15% unemployment rate (because I don't believe their numbers) opens the doors to everybody. It simply doesn't happen

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OldFort2012 1 year, 6 months ago

No, my friend. I does not take "vision". It takes hard work. Hard work which starts at 5 in school and continues on in the workplace until you retire at 65. And that is so beyond even the comprehension of the average Bahamian, it's not even funny anymore. Can we catch up? No way in hell. We are being left behind further and further every year and the gap keeps on widening. There are no policies to close it and no prospect this century.

Please stop referring to the 15% as "unemployed". Refer to them as what they really are: unemployable.

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 6 months ago

In reference to "vision" I'm talking about creating an educational program geared at meeting our people where they are and getting them to world standard. Should the govt spend money on that. YES. They spent 200 million for a dry up hotel.

It takes vision. We have none. I've never been so disappointed as when Kwasi Thompson said he was first afraid when he saw all white developers working on carnivals new ewatch software and then he was relieved when he saw the black people in another room "installing" the software. I take it back I was angry. This man is in charge of the tech hub and his vision is "black" people can't write sofware. That's what I mean by VISIONLESS.

And yes we can catch up. It's a myth and a line sold to the underemployed to not even try. Some of them don't know how to start. They dont even need to go to a four year institution. Take a series of training courses and over two years you become productive. No living breathing human being is unattrainable. Finding out how to motivate them is the challenge. Again it takes vision.

We have 15% unemployed. The ones who can't read or do math can be trained in under two years. Or are we gonna talk for the next 20 years about them not being able to read? Again visionless.

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happyfly 1 year, 6 months ago

I want to know if it really took a room full of Bahamian Politicians to come up with this one? This is just another mind-numbing example of poor leadership. The cost of living has doubled in the Bahamas in the last ten years and the average worker is earning less now than they were in 2009. Do Ya think that a new law to have work permit holders forcibly removed after seven years (from now) is going to have a positive impact on us average voters livelihood? Hey Joe, you may get a job in seven years, unless they hire the next foriegner of course. Or do you think foreign investors appreciate these poorly thought out brain farts that jeopardize their hard earned and already risky investments in this country? My goodness. The policy does not make political or financial sense and it usually takes people about 20 years to get citizenship (if they lucky) so it barely even falls into the paranoid xenophobe arena.

How much longer are we all going to keep pretending that GLOBALIZATION is not going to affect us so long as we keep sticking our heads in the sand and keep telling ourselves it's better here without foreigners

These small minded and gutless tweaks to the immigration laws must be a joke

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Millennial242 1 year, 6 months ago

The argument here completely neglects those of us who actually did well in school, have the skill-sets (and experience), and want to put it to good use but are assumed to 'not-exist'. Those of us that didn't get the "D average" and want to excel in our country are forced to look other places because the system is designed to continually seek foreigners. The 7-year rule is a step in the right direction. We have to start somewhere.

Seven years is sufficient time for an executive to take a skilled senior manager and mold them into an executive role (if they genuinely put the effort into it). The rule forces this to happen. There are countless examples where work permits include a clause for training a Bahamian to take on the role in the future, but no true effort is ever put into it (nor enforced).

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 6 months ago

EXACTLY. our immigration policies should ALL be geared at programs to bahamianize the workforce. All the skill sets they say we dont have, train up a Bahamian or Bahamians to do it. 7 years is more than enough time

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Chucky 1 year, 6 months ago

a foreign worker cannot train a Bahamian replacement. its just not possible.

Foreigners who come from a proper society with proper schools who advance to real universities and are the taught by top notch professors have a real advantage, even over our best and brightest. But they are not miracle workers.

It take a university of professors years to shape the typical university grad, and anyone who thinks the grad can replicate the university experience on a undereducated bahamamian is sadly mistaken.

the mere thought of a skilled professional being able to educate an understudy to his own level while working is perhaps the best example of Bahamian arrogance i have ever heard. you would have to think our d average people have some hidden genius inside, to believe they can obtain the equivalent of a university education as an understudy in 7 years.

wake up people, if we are to replace foreign expertise, with Bahamians it will start only after fixing our education system, and family values, work ethic, and then sending our kids to top universities, and then they will need years of experience in real world top firms, and then we need them to come home with their education and experience. At best this is a road 30 years long. if we start today.
To think otherwise is simple arrogance and stupidity.

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