By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
The government must ensure it does not “take bread out of the mouths of Bahamians” by taking this country into full WTO membership, the DNA’s former leader said yesterday.
Branville McCartney, pictured, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas should only follow through with World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession if it and, by extension, Bahamians stood to reap significant economic benefits.
He said: “In the march towards World Trade Organisation accession what must always be in the background of the government is that the Bahamian people, and the Bahamian economy, must always be first.
“We have seen in other countries where, quite frankly, WTO has not been successful in that regard. Any arrangement or agreements made relative to the WTO must take into consideration the dynamics of our economy, how it operates today, and with the view of empowering our economy and the lives of Bahamians and those who have a right to live here.”
Mr McCartney added: “If it’s going to have the opposite effect we need to leave it alone. If it is going to enhance the lives of Bahamians, if it is going to cause a reduction in the cost of living in this country, you ought to move forward. That is the general parameters of what I think the Government ought to always take into consideration in their deliberations.
“You don’t want bread to be taken out of the mouths of Bahamians and those who have a right to be here. It’s as simple as that. Put simply, if it’s not going to benefit The Bahamas and, by extension, the Bahamian people, you don’t need it. If it is we should welcome it with open arms.”
Mr McCartney described the current business environment as a “nightmare”, adding: “As it stands now, without the introduction of WTO business in the country is a nightmare. That has not been fixed. The electricity cost remains one of the primary killers of business. If we don’t do something to rectify that there will be more businesses going out of business.
“It is most difficult to get into business, to start new businesses and keep your businesses afloat. We have to ensure that no additional burden is placed on the backs of the Bahamian people.”
An Oxford Economics study commissioned by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) concluded that The Bahamas will only maximise the benefits of full WTO membership if it combines accession with broad-based domestic economic reforms that tackle this nation’s long-standing governance, transparency, red tape and ease and cost of doing business weaknesses.
Should The Bahamas adopt this approach, Oxford Economics estimated it could lift the economy’s long-run average annual GDP growth rate to around 2 percent - higher than the 1.5 percent currently forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It also projected that this would help slash The Bahamas’ national unemployment rate from its current 10 percent to 6.5 percent over the next decade, driving it to its lowest level this century.