PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said the government would crack down on granting work permits yesterday, declaring: “We’re not anti-foreigners. We’re just pro-Bahamian.”
He did not say what the government would do differently: Labour Director Robert Farquharson has repeatedly said the Department of Labour is cracking down on issuing work permits.
Mr Davis said it is unacceptable for employers to seek work permit renewals for foreigners after ten to 15 years.
He said Bahamians should get the jobs after being trained. He said he had tasked labour and immigration officials with cracking down on employers seeking to take advantage of the system.
He made the comments while defending the government’s decision to increase work permit fees.
“We accept that foreigners are required to fill some positions,” he said while wrapping up the 2023/24 budget debate in the House of Assembly.
“And we accept that a foreign investor may want their key personnel here, but we can’t do it at the sacrifice of us, man, and we want them to come because we appreciate as well that we may not have the capacity or the expertise and experience locally to provide some of them. In those instances, fine.”
He added: “I want to make it clear to employers that in these instances, we expect a Bahamian to understudy and be trained for that position. The Department of Immigration and, by extension, the government, should not find itself in a position where an employer is asking to renew a work permit after 10 or 15 years.”
“This is unacceptable, especially when our database at the Department of Immigration and at the Department of Labour are qualified to fill the post.”
Labour director Robert Farquharson cited the government’s desire to reduce the 8.8 per cent unemployment rate further when asked about Mr Davis’ mandate yesterday.
He said a taskforce was formed two months ago to focus on work permits.
“Once a Bahamian is available, our job is to identify the Bahamian and choose Bahamians first,” he said. “In the event that no Bahamians is available, then the employer is mandated under the policy of the government to identify a Bahamian understudy and the Department of Labour is mandated to monitor that understudy to make sure the necessary training and transfer occurs.”