By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A well-known QC has urged the Government to use Freeport to test out further exchange control liberalisation and end Bahamians’ status as “second class citizens in their own economy”.
Fred Smith QC, pictured, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, told Tribune Business it was “absurd” that Bahamian investors must continue paying an exchange control premium - albeit much reduced - to invest and purchase shares in foreign listed companies operating in this nation.
Arguing that this was further depriving Bahamians “of a piece of their own economic pie”, he blasted: “I again invite the government to give up these unnecessary, stringent exchange controls on the purchase of shares in non-Bahamian companies that are listed on international stock exchanges and are coming to do business in The Bahamas.
“It remains absurd that every foreign person can own shares in most of the companies involved in The Bahamas - Global Ports Holding, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Hutchison Whampoa - yet no Bahamian can own or receive any dividend from these enterprises.
“Bahamians remain economic parasites in their own paradise, relying on picking up towels, cleaning beaches and toilets, performing menial functions as opposed to having an interest in the real money coming to The Bahamas and making investments,” Mr Smith added.
“Why continue with these controls that deprive Bahamians of a piece of their own economic pie, and fail to provide their own people with the opportunities foreigners get. This is simply insane.”
Mr Smith argued that Freeport could provide the testing ground for the further relaxation, and eventual elimination, of exchange controls before such reforms were extended to the wider Bahamas.
“Freeport is the ideal place where the Government might want to liberalise exchange controls completely,” he told Tribune Business. “It could try it out in Freeport.
“Allow Bahamians to buy shares in Carnival without paying the exorbitant premium required. With that premium for the acquisition of shares abroad, they do not make it economically worthwhile for Bahamians to invest in these companies.”