Statement by Philip Brave Davis
Leader of The Opposition
On the Commercial Enterprise Bill
24 November 2017
The PLP is fundamentally opposed to the Commercial Enterprises Bill. It did not support it in the House. It will not support it in the Senate. It will take its case on the road to the Bahamian people. When we come to office we will repeal it and those who accept its benefits ought to think carefully before accepting the benefits of this legislation.
The bill is an unnecessary intervention for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) or to support growth or empower entrepreneurship. During the debate in the House nothing was advanced to justify the intervention of this bill. All that was said to justify the policy of the Government can be achieved by improving management protocols and the efficiency of the public administration.
We are also suspicious of the creation of “specified enterprise zones”. Such a designation of land will no doubt enhance its value. We know who the land barons are in this country. They hold too much of the wealth of the country as it stands. This will only further enrich them at the expense of the public at large.
For example, if the city of Nassau is designated as such who is more likely to benefit. No doubt Brent Symonette who is the mover of this Bill and a major land owner in the city of Nassau, in New Providence and in The Bahamas. This is one of the more obvious conflicts of interest.
The Bill sets an investment threshold to provide for automatic work permits at $250,000. This is selling out our birth right for a “bowl of porridge”. What informs this threshold? It is cheapening our patrimony.
The real challenge to growth and empowerment is the bar to Bahamians to get access to capital — we need to liberalize access to capital rather than work permits without vetting.
This bill is fundamentally flawed, fundamentally wrong and fundamentally ill- conceived. It will undercut the progress that Bahamians have made in this country under the PLP after 1967 and Majority Rule. It threatens the jobs of young professionals in this country.
There is nothing wrong with the regime which now obtains which requires you to find a Bahamian professional and only if that professional is not available will a work permit be granted.
This Bill does nothing for Bahamians and is simple pandering to a privileged minority and foreign interests while squeezing the economic way of life for many Bahamians.
Economic development and liberalization should not come at the expense or detriment of the Bahamian people. The Progressive Liberal Party understands that the survivability of The Bahamas is dependent on our ability to adapt to changing economic conditions
We cannot, however, support any legislation that jeopardizes the livelihoods of our people as this does. The Government must focus on improving the skills of our workforce while fostering an environment that reduces the barriers to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. The Commercial Enterprises’ Bill does not help us. We oppose it.