LIKE buses, it seems you wait forever for a project in Andros, and then three come along at once.
Better still, as we look at a world where tourism has been destroyed by COVID-19, none of the new projects depend on that, offering a way to diversify the economy.
Each project has its own pros and cons, we are sure, but the most eye-catching one has been the proposal for a free trade zone by Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Dr Soon-Shiong seems the real deal – a net worth according to Forbes magazine of $6.9bn, a part owner of the Lakers said to be a mentor to Kobe Bryant, owner of the LA Times and more. If there was a gold standard of investor that The Bahamas would like to attract, this is it.
This is the kind of investor who could have helped to breathe life into the likes of Grand Bahama again – and his project in Andros has the potential to bring a transformation.
Sadly, that proposal is attended by the kind of sniping that is unhelpful. The North Andros MP, Carlton Bowleg, has complained of “high disrespect” because he wasn’t consulted first. Honestly, Mr Bowleg, a multi-billionaire brings a game-changing proposal to the table and your complaint is that you didn’t get an invite yet?
The PLP has also come out against the project. We hope this isn’t because it’s a proposal being brought under an FNM government and they fear a political cost at the ballot box.
The PLP cite environmental concerns, which given how slow they were to take action over environmental concerns at Peter Nygard’s home, is a little rich.
This isn’t to say of course that environmental concerns shouldn’t be considered. Of course they should – it should meet all the criteria but some of this seems like opposition for the sake of doing so. Sometimes, we need to lift our eyes to the horizon and see what could be.
That should hold true beyond this project. How can we bring this kind of investor to other islands – including Grand Bahama, including the Family Islands. In short, how can we transform The Bahamas to bring all the benefits of modern society to Bahamians while retaining the beauty of the country we love?
Political capital should not get in the way of advancing the nation – and if that means more work permits for industries to help the nation grow, then why not? Especially if we put in place ways for Bahamians to get into those industries too, with training and education.
Whether each of these projects in Andros come to completion, we will see. Each will be subjected to the application process and have to deal with any problems along the way.
But that the potential is there is tantalising. Where can we turn our eyes next to make the most of the potential of our country? And what do we need to do to get there?
Taxes are inevitable - but which ones?
As Benjamin Franklin once said, nothing is certain except death and taxes. As we look at the bills we are running up in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and the economic storm of COVID-19, we know a time will come to pay them.
It is good to hear then the voices of people such as Rupert Pinder, in today’s Business section, speaking on the missed opportunity to start talks on tax reform in The Bahamas.
The University of The Bahamas lecturer points up what we already know – that our taxes are regressive, hitting poorer Bahamians disproportionately. VAT and import tariffs are consumption-based, and tend to hit the smaller wallet more than the larger one.
Finance Minister Peter Turnquest has fought shy of reform now – saying it’s “too early” to talk about such reforms as we try to overcome our current woes. But what of the future? If not this structure, then what? If not now, when?
Having the conversation costs nothing – and while no one enjoys paying money, and even less paying more money, having a broad discussion about how to fund society’s needs would help people to understand the merits and problems of each different approach.
International organisations have their own requirements – as anyone following debate about WTO membership can attest – but what do we want as Bahamians, and what do we want in return for the money we pay?
Let’s get that debate rolling – not least because it will tell us what we want as a society too.