Investment State Minister meets with Chamber members

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Pictured from left are Edison Sumner, Chief Eexecutive Officer of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and the Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC); the Hon. Khaalis Rolle, Minister of State for Investment in the Office of the Prime Minister; I. Chester Cooper, Chairman of the BCCEC and Winston Rolle, outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the BCCEC. (BIS PHOTOS/Elcott Coleby).

By: Elcott Coleby
Bahamas Information Services

On the heels of their meeting with the State Minister for Finance, members of the business community and the Chamber of Commerce and the Employers Confederation (CCEC) were out in full force last Friday to hear from the State Minister for Investment in the second of the Chamber’s “Meet the Minister” series.

Before a capacity crowd in the Governor’s Ballroom, State Minister for Investment in the Office of the Prime Minister the Hon. Khaalis Rolle touted the traditional success of The Bahamas in attracting Foreign Direct Investment. He however lamented the fact that although The Bahamas enjoyed a relatively high Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, this impressive capital infusion has not satisfactorily trickled down to Bahamian businesses and professionals.

“Indeed, it has just been reported by Moody’s that The Bahamas’ 27% gross FDI ratio led the entire Latin American and Caribbean region in 2012.  However, it is an unfortunate truth that this has not been matched by an ability to translate these levels of investment into downstream economic activities for Bahamian businesses and professionals,” said Minister Rolle.

To correct this, the government is currently reorganizing and strengthening the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) including “regularly scheduled (and) targeted investment promotion missions to both traditional and new markets with the participation of all relevant stakeholders.” This, according to the State Minister is in addition to initiating a process “to quickly improve the ease of doing business in The Bahamas, to ensure that we remain an attractive and responsive jurisdiction.” These steps, the Minister believes, are necessary to put Bahamian businesses in direct contact with potential foreign investors and maximize the returns from FDI to assist in facilitating the country’s sustainable economic growth.

This is a consistent message from the government regarding its investment strategy aimed at increasing the level of participation by local Bahamian firms and professionals in the country’s economic development. On the 27th of February, Minister Rolle addressed members of the Bahamas Society of Engineers (BSE) where he advised them to “strategically create partnerships among local engineering firms (and) develop cross-border alliances with non-Bahamian companies” to better position themselves to take full advantage of opportunities arising from increased levels of foreign direct investments in the country.

Turning his attention to the economic outlook of The Bahamas, Minister Rolle gave Chamber stakeholders reasons to share the government’s cautious optimism about the country’s economic rebound as he referenced a number of investment projects in various stages of development.

These included the $2.6 billion Baha Mar Resort and Casino which is on schedule for a December 2014 opening; multi-million dollar capital projects announced by new Atlantis owners, Brookfield Asset Management; the Reef Village on Grand Bahama which is undergoing an upgrade to a Blue Diamond Five Star Resort with the Sunwing Travel Group partnership; the Bimini Bay Resort with the Genting partnership; the Cove and Coco di Mama Resort expansions and the construction of the French Leave Resort and Marina Village on the island of Eleuthera.

“This brief snapshot of where we are in terms of FDI” said the State Minister, “should enable business leaders…to share the Government’s cautious optimism that FDI levels will continue to rebound to pre-recession levels, and therefore provide sustainable business and economic activities for Bahamians in the short to medium term.”

The luncheon meeting was held at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel.