Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Peter Turnquest said The Bahamas must move from undue emphasis on foreign investment to propel economic activity.
“While we do acknowledge an important role for such investments, if they are legitimately strategic in nature, we are firmly committed to unleashing the potential and creativity of home-grown entrepreneurs as catalysts of innovation, investment and stronger economic growth, particularly in non-traditional industries, the DPM said during his Contribution to the 2017/18 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
He explained that to support and promote increased Bahamian entrepreneurship and ownership in the economy, and especially small and medium-sized businesses, the Government has laid out, in its Manifesto, a detailed array of measures that it will pursue during this mandate. These include:
· the introduction of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDA) in order to consolidate the services and incentives of all relevant agencies;
· support for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Centres;
· provision of a $5 million capital infusion to the Venture Capital Fund;
· establishment of a one-stop shop, incorporating relevant Government agencies and services as a means of easing the burden and cost of doing business in this country;
· encouragement of the commercial banks to establish Small Business Units staffed with professionals attuned to the particular needs of SMEs, including mentorship and guidance;
· further strengthening of the Fresh Start and Jumpstart programmes established by the previous FNM Administration; and
· make available incentives and inducements that are in line with those offered to foreign investors in the same sectors of the economy.
Grand Bahama’s economy
He said the Government will also strive to revitalise the Grand Bahama economy through initiatives that are geared to accelerating, broadening and sustaining its economic development.
The Budget Communication announced, “we would repeal and replace the disastrous Grand Bahama (Port Area) Investment Incentives Act 2016 that I have labelled as a ‘job killer’.
“Our objective is to ensure that all licensees receive equal treatment under the law, with the greatest opportunity for success, unencumbered by red tape and unreasonable cost to operate.”
In addition, the DPM said other measures the Government intends to establish include:
· relocate The Bahamas Maritime Authority to Grand Bahama as a means of establishing it as the maritime capital of the country and leverage the container port and shipyard infrastructure to attract new investment into the sector;
· further develop BTVI and the University of The Bahamas to more effectively support the island’s industrial and hospitality requirement;
· promote Grand Bahama as an eco-tourism sanctuary;
· by capitalizing on the airport infrastructure, develop the aviation sector as well as attract overnight courier services;
· utilize Crown lands in east and west Grand Bahama to create a hydro-farm and a mariculture facility to produce crops and seafood for export; and
· eliminate all preferential treatment that hinders the growth of business on the island.
Inner city communities in New Providence
DPM Turnquest said the inner city communities in New Providence have long been economically and socially depressed areas and have been neglected by Government for far too long.
He said, “Our Government will, during this mandate, therefore move to reinvigorate and transform these so-called ‘Ova-da-Hill’ communities through incentives for entrepreneurs, investors and especially small and medium-sized businesses that will spur business growth and job creation from within these communities.
“We will support the construction of business premises and new or refurbished owner-occupied homes. We will establish community centres with activities that strengthen family and social cohesion for the youth and elderly. And we will ensure the provision of potable water, sewer and sanitation services in line with those available to our citizens elsewhere,” DPM Turnquest said.