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Get 'Game Changer' Industries To Reduce External Vulnerability

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Raymond Winder

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Commonwealth Bank's president says the COVID-19 pandemic fall-out has again exposed the urgency for The Bahamas to attract "game changer" industries that will diversify its economy.

Raymond Winder told Tribune Business that this nation had done little to mitigate its vulnerability to external shocks in the two decades since he was Chamber of Commerce president, and the 2002 Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) report that ranked The Bahamas as fourth most expose to such events.

"It hasn't changed," he told Tribune Business, "and now we finally get to see it played out based on the fact we are so tied to one specific industry, tourism, and the implications of not having sufficient tourists coming to our properties for the next two to three months in terms of the impact on our economy.

"Once again we need to be reminded of that, and how critical it is to create and attract new types of investors into our country. It was critical back in 2001-2003, and it's just as critical now that we do all we can to diversify our economy."

The Commonwealth Bank chief spoke out as he unveiled a raft of measures to help any borrowers and clients that ran into distress as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in the immediate near-total shutdown of the Bahamian tourism industry.

Mr Winder revealed that Commonwealth Bank is "giving an automatic six-month loan payment deferral" to clients, who are current and in good standing, throughout The Bahamas - including the two islands hit by Hurricane Dorian.

He added that assistance will also be provided "on a case-by-case basis" to Commonwealth Bank's mortgage and commercial loan customers in addition to the six-month loan repayment deferral.

"We are working with our clients who may be experiencing challenges, and we expect a number of them to reach out to us," Mr Winder added. "As a Bahamian bank we want to be able to reach out to our Bahamian colleagues as we realise these are uncharted waters, and our customers have been good to us for the past 60 years.

"In times like these we feel we have a corporate responsibility to assist them wherever we can in making this period of their life as less stressed as possible."

Turning back to the diversification theme, Mr Winder added: "I think when you look at diversification in terms of the wealth creators in the world today, the new wealth is being created in technology through money that doesn't have to be in New York or Silicon Valley to be able to participate in this marketplace.

"We in The Bahamas continue to have one of the best locations in terms of attracting individuals to live in The Bahamas. It behooves us to continue to seek to attract this type of investor that does not always have the dollar capital but the mental capacity to create this new technology platform in The Bahamas. I see that as a real game changer for us."

The Minnis administration came to office in May 2017 seeking to establish Grand Bahama as a so-called "technology hub", but the effort has truly yet to take hold or gain critical mass almost three years later.

Meanwhile, the slow attrition-based decline of The Bahamas' financial services sector, the "second pillar" of the economy, has increased this nation's dependence on tourism in the absence of new industries being attracted to this nation's shores.

"I think the main takeaway again is to understand and appreciate that we live in a country that is vulnerable to external shocks," Mr Winder added of the COVID-19 impact, "and it behooves all of us as individuals, entrepreneurs, the Government and as a country to seek to have reserves earmarked for these occasions.

"This will not be the last one. We live in a hurricane belt, and will experience external shocks in the future. And the big take away for me is our preparation that we as individuals, companies and governments do to withstand external shocks.

"To make this happen this may require additional sacrifices during the good times to prepare for the bad times when they arrive."

Comments

K4C 2 months, 1 week ago

1st you'll need an educated work force pool

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joeblow 2 months, 1 week ago

... having people prepared to work instead of those looking for a job would help too!

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K4C 2 months, 1 week ago

I am old enough to remember back in the day when the Bahamas had construction workers waiting for work, can't say the same today

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concerned799 2 months, 1 week ago

Here's a game changer:

Kick out the cruise ships and then visitors will have to stay in hotels where Bahamians can be employed to serve them, clean the rooms, make food etc. instead of the foreign workers who serve them on cruise ships!

Why is this so hard? For decades his country has let its #1 industry be taken over by the cruise industry with continued permit approvals for them to expand. Hopefully this is the opportunity to get it right and put the economy back on track, which is really SO simple.

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Bobsyeruncle 2 months, 1 week ago

So who is going to finance and build the hotels? And where are they going to build them. Successive governments have failed to invest outside of Nassau when it comes to building the infrastructure that would be required before any significant building of large hotels can be accomplished. Or, are you expecting them to be built in Nassau, where infrastructure (and available land) is already at capacity.

If only it was as simple as you think

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

You look to the government for everything and have zero faith in the private sector's ability to do anything. For decades now the government has literally prevented the local private sector from working in tandem with foreign investors to build a vibrant, thriving and well diversified economy. Political interference by incompetent greedy "cup in hand" buffoons has held our county and its people back and made us that much more vulnerable to economic shocks.

Morons like you look to the government for everything. Grow up and stop sucking on taxpayers' milk from your baby bottle!

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bogart 2 months, 1 week ago

@Mudda....ya hav to drain the swamp. Many attempts for diversifying has few taking grip ....having to deal with critters...snakes...frauds..hoops....little legislation to protect ....no financial ombudsman...etcetc. Surprising always these decades by persons wheeljng, dealing, advising making numerous very good advices as paid employer expert position..even starting back to advising relative on saving newspapers money and despite still having to lend to newspaper ......... Ironic decades when any prospective entrepreneur could quickly get big loan for expensive luxury car than get loan for business....why even had one foreigner banker telling that financial institution is not venture capital and yet intenting to stay and remain as valuable Bahamas status to build....why for decades the Govt and all its its Nation building salaried Govt quasi boards sat on their behinds made economic predatory foreign institutions have programs for their profits giving loans for second hand cars...instead of other sectors..why even govt with regulayor allowing bank it controlled with unusually large potiticians with loans default and bailed out with taxpayers money assets valued much less.....diversification...repeatedly solution but little traction...why even goes back to BARTAD independence gift for farms to take place in Andros but the cows wind up starving on the sides of the road.......unless swamp is drained.......on and on and on...

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DDK 2 months, 1 week ago

Or have smaller Bahamian owned and sensibly regulated Viking-sytle cruises within the Bahamas.

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K4C 2 months, 1 week ago

Bahamian owned ?

Who ?

The Bay Street Boys are all GONE

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

No worry we Out Islanders can buy some them Sea Diving Goggles and head Andros for returning back to Sponging.
Why not, If it was once before the colony's leading economic driving force - why not give try again.
Would be made lots easier kick-start, if any one you comrades could search for some trace of that $1.118 million put aside back in 2017 by the Inter-American Bank (IDB) for the revival we sponging industry.

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 1 week ago

forget about a focus on tourism big or small

well not forget but not the singular focus, my argument (again) is for building intellectual capital. Bahamian brains are no different than Asian Caucasian or Indian brains. They just haven't been exercised as much.

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Ma Comrade ThisIsours, there could be strong evidence support that the first and second generation post Independence - took full advantage but thereafter, it's as if brain's we own went all soursop. It's almost like someone yanked out plug connected their receptacle portal. Nod once for yeah, Twice for no?

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 1 week ago

it take alot of brains to come up with a plan to rob a store in Bahamar. But you see the evidence that the brain needed more exercise when the culprits got caught within a week... or you could be right and it was evidence of the soursop transfirmation

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

The bottomline is that people need BASIC needs …….. food, water and shelter ……… Just like the Arawaks of old ……….. Forget the 21st Century gimmicks ………. Survival of the Fittest.

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mckenziecpa 2 months, 1 week ago

Niggers will always be crabs clawing each other down afraid to venture that’s why shit aint moving every plp including Perry than hoard all the money and put country last. Say what you want but Dr. Minnis has been the most honest and care about country first

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

Phew! You must be smokin' some serious stuff if you believe Minnis puts our country and its people before himself. Yep, totally delusional.

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