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Economy Cannot Hit 5k Annual New Jobs Need

* ‘Can’t bury heads in sand’ on Freeport recovery path

* Gov’t must ‘sooner rather than later’ realise key truth

* Rebound chief urges mindset shift on ‘cultural issues’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas will never generate the 4,000-5,000 new jobs that it needs per year over the next two decades by remaining reliant on its ‘twin pillar’ economic model, a top attorney warned yesterday.

Robert Adams, who heads the Revitalisation and Economic Expansion of Freeport (REEF) committee, told Tribune Business this was why the Government and wider Bahamas needed to realise “sooner rather than later” that “the path to recovery lies through” the nation’s second city - and the diversification potential it offers - in COVID-19’s aftermath.

Calling for “a paradigm shift” in The Bahamas’s economic thinking, he described the country’s two long-standing ‘pillars’ - tourism and financial services - as “low hanging fruit” that it had to do relatively little work in developing due to its geographical location and advent of bank secrecy. Now, with neither industry able to fully meet the population’s growing demand for jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, Mr Adams said The Bahamas will have “to apply itself a little more to take advantage” of possibilities to generate faster gross domestic product (GDP) growth and diversify.

Voicing optimism that this can be done, the Delaney Partners consultant attorney identified developing Freeport as “the maritime centre of the Americas” and the sustainable exploitation of marine resource by developing the so-called “blue economy” as opportunities that can be seized.

He quickly pointed out, though, that this will require a “cultural shift” in many Bahamians thinking such that industries such as mariculture and aquaculture are not seen as sectors solely for persons lacking academic qualifications.

Mr Adams spoke out as the REEF Committee, which was appointed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), prepares to release the results of the public consultation on its proposals for Freeport’s post-COVID-19 and Dorian economic revival.

Arguing that the Bahamian economy now stands at a pivotal point in its history, he told Tribune Business: “We need to have a paradigm shift. We need 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs every year for the next 20 years, and that’s not going to come out of financial services and tourism alone. It’s unrealistic. “That’s why I say The Bahamas’ path to recovery lies through Freeport, and that’s where the additional pillars of our economy can be born and grow. The sooner the Government and others realise that, the better it will be for the national economy.”

While the Government and GBPA have often had a rocky relationship since the Hawksbill Creek Agreement was signed in 1955, Mr Adams said the latter “stands ready, willing and able to do what is required” to haul Freeport and the wider Bahamian economy back from the brink.

The GBPA’s critics will likely challenge this assertion, but Mr Adams meanwhile argued The Bahamas had not had to work hard to develop the tourism and financial services industries that represent the ‘twin pillars’ of its economic foundation.

“The thing about tourism and financial services as industries is that I describe them as low hanging fruit,” he explained. “I don’t think we had to do much once we had banking confidentiality to develop the financial services industry.

“Once banking confidentiality drifted away from us, it became a challenge. Year after year we’re seeing a decline in the financial services business, and it’s becoming increasingly harder to compete internationally as a financial services centre.

“Similarly with tourism. We didn’t have to do much. We had sea, sun and sand in abundance all around us, and proximity to the US eastern seaboard made it easy for us to take advantage of it.

“These other industries require us to apply ourselves a bit more to take advantage of them. We have the talented people and can do it.”

Giving an insight into the REEF committee’s thinking and some of the feedback it has received, Mr Adams hinted that food security was a critical issue for many who participated in its consultation process.

The so-called “blue economy”, involving the sustainable exploitation of the country’s ocean and marine resources, as well as making Freeport a regional maritime hub were said by Mr Adams to have “resonated well” with persons seeing this as a “logical path” for Freeport’s development and to also build on the assets it already possesses such as the harbour and shipyard.

“That’s the way forward for Freeport and, I dare say, the way forward for The Bahamas,” he added.

“When you look at the reality of what is happening to other major parts of the economy, we cannot bury our heads in the sand as to what confronts us. We can’t.

“We need jobs, and we need economic opportunities. A lot of those opportunities lie in the natural resources that God has vested us with. We need to harness those opportunities efficiently, making capital available to Bahamian entrepreneurs.

“We need to become more open with respect to allowing people with capital and expertise from outside to come in and work with Bahamians to take advantage of these opportunities, and we need to be more focused and strategic in training our people.”

Mr Adams, though, warned that The Bahamas will have to tackle “cultural issues” and attitudes, citing fisheries as one area where this needed to occur given the potential for fish farming, aquaculture and mariculture.

“We need to have a paradigm shift in out thinking that these are jobs for those not academically gifted,” he told Tribune Business.

“That’s not the case. The academically gifted are the ones we need to focus on these industries. There’s a lot of work to be done, but that’s the way forward for The Bahamas.

“We can build on what we have, but this over-reliance on tourism and financial services to keep us going is not the way forward for us. We need to broaden our base, and natural resources are a natural opportunity to provide a better standing of living for our people.”

Sand and aragonite mining, and their export, also held potential for The Bahamas, Mr Adams said. He also argued that this nation must stop viewing southern Caribbean countries “as the enemy” and look to increase trade and commerce with them as a means to achieve further diversification.

“We also need to tackle energy in exploiting these pillars,” he added. “We have to tackle our energy costs and become more efficient. That’s a big factor of production and has been a major impediment towards expanding into these pillars. If other countries have done it with less, I think we can do it with some focus and effort.”

Comments

bahamianson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

They only way we.are.going to pick up jobs in this terrible economy is if we bring mega hotels here to hire 5000 people.

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The_Oracle 1 month, 3 weeks ago

A complete and utter waste of time, much like the Port Ownership and Token GB government ministers. Report after report, zero action. Any idiot can point at the problem. The problem will never Solve itself.

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rodentos 1 month, 3 weeks ago

they should smoke less weed to get some clear ideas what is and what can be

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 3 weeks ago

This is all CHEAP talk.

Our Lucaya Cheap Talk. The Airport what is the Port doing about that?

I suppose the Peoples time voter believes. after all Grand Bahama is FNM country

Good luck with that. And keep on talking CHEAP TALK.

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rodentos 1 month, 3 weeks ago

You see that destroyed airplane still lying in the woods side by side with the landing strip in Freeport? What is that? One year+ after Dorian they can't remove the wreckage?

Seriously: You want to be a tourist destination and the first thing passengers of landing planes get to see is a destroyed airplane? What kind of mindfck is that?! Not even the worst shihole country would leave an airplane wreckage visible to tourists coming in! Bahamas is out of normal world.

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FrustratedBusinessman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we haven't even started entering the hard times yet.

No more cruise ships for now, plus the fact that air arrivals will more than likely take a couple of years to reach what they were pre-COVID means that the tourism industry is dead in the water for the short-term future.

In the meantime, bills will continue to pile up and new students will continue to graduate from school to enter a depressed labour market (many of their parents will be unable to assist them through college thanks to the economic situation, meaning even more will be stuck here to search for work). On top of that, our debt will only continue to increase and taxes will have to be raised at some point in the future.

Better get out now if you still can, or hunker down and prepare for the worst while praying for the best.

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 3 weeks ago

We are in danger of entering World War Z. That's where the zombies come out, the people not affected by the virus barricade themselves behind gates to keep the zombies out. The virus in this case is poverty and starvation. People will catch it in droves and it will make them mindless. Gates won't protect the uninfected. That's where we headed. I told a colleague this scenario a few years back when we had another crisis, they said it was unlikely to happen, the govt had "options".

A vaccine would help

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 2 weeks ago

It appears the answer is: there is no answer to The Bahamas' financial crisis. The only ideas that may make sense are: sand harvesting (sell sand to the US and Signapore) and cannabis. Other than these, it's back to a fishing village we go. Food security should also be top of the list, to prepare for the Bahamian dollar crashing. The Government needs to start building shelters for the thousands of newly evicted homeless. 2021 is going to be a rough ride for sure.

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concerned799 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Not sure why they overlooked the most viable strategy of kicking all the cruise ships out of the Bahamas (and the wider region with partner nations) and then restructuring the tourism industry as one based around hotels and land based stays instead of very low margin cruise passengers. It would seem the ease of spreading COVID on cruise ships is the ideal time to do this. Alternatively we can let cruise ships continue to grow in size and market power and squeeze out the rest of the land based hotel industry and further squeeze GDP and tourism jobs. Which approach is better for the Bahamas?

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DWW 1 month, 2 weeks ago

is there an elephant in the room or am i tripping out?

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banker 1 month, 2 weeks ago

So where is the Grand Bahama Tech Hub promised in 2017?

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Proguing 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Some guy tried to provide Uber rides, but he was hunted down by taxi drivers

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