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Bahamian Investors Promised Full Treatment (Bahama Journal)
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Posted by:Mar 20th 2006, 08:56:20 pm
Fig Tree News TeamMarch 17, 2006
Bahamian Investors Promised Equal Treatment

It is government's intention to ensure that the same concessions and incentives that apply to the foreign investor apply also to the domestic investor.

In his first meeting with Bahamian investment stakeholders on Thursday, the new Minister of Financial Services and Investments Vincent Peet promised to fast track applications of Bahamian entrepreneurs seeking to take advantage of economic opportunities.

"It is the government's intention to ensure that the same concessions and the same incentives that apply to the foreign investor applies to the domestic investor," said Minister Peet during the meeting at his West Bay Street office.

"It is important that we put in place the mechanism through this ministry to reduce the red tape, to reduce the frustration that has occurred for years where Bahamian entrepreneurs want to start a business, but they are given the runaround."

In the Speech from the Throne read by Governor General Arthur Hanna last month, the government promised to establish a Domestic Investment Board "to act as the primary catalyst for the management of applications for assistance from Bahamian entrepreneurs."

The speech stated clearly that, "The Domestic Investment Board will cut red tape for Bahamian investors."

Director of Investments Basil Albury believes that the Domestic Investment Board will be an important tool in helping to spur local investment.

"The government now has the responsibility to ensure that more and more Bahamians are able to take advantage of the spin-off business from foreign investment inflows," said Mr. Albury, who spoke of the importance of the "consultative process" in charting the course for greater economic empowerment for Bahamians.

Minister Peet said on Thursday that that promise will not be an empty one and he said the government will move swiftly to establish the board.

It's why, he said, the stakeholders were called together for the first meeting.

"Governments have talked about this for years," Minister Peet said. "This government under the prime minister's leadership is now doing something about it."

He said that because many of the stakeholders have experienced a certain level of frustration in getting their plans expedited, their ideas will be taken into consideration as greater attention is placed on "cutting through the maze of red tape."

Among those in attendance were representatives from the ministries of Finance and Tourism, the Bahamas Light Industries Council, the Small Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Venture Capital Fund, and the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation.

The financial services and investments minister said through the board, all of the government agencies will be coordinated and the proper expertise will be available to help in the preparation of business plans.

Edison Sumner, director of the government's Venture Capital Fund, said one of the problems that Fund administrators have been facing is that some businesspeople have been presenting poor quality business plans.

"Unfortunately, some of the applications we've seen coming through the Venture [Capital] Fund have not been of the quality you would expect," said Mr. Sumner, who also attended the meeting on Thursday.

"It shows us that the Bahamian investors, while they may have some very good ideas are having difficulties getting those ideas on paper and are having further difficulties having those ideas passed through to the relevant people."

Vice President of the Small Business Association Marlon Johnson told the meeting that the Domestic Investment Board is overdue. He said the Board can benefit from similar initiatives in the region.

"In our travel in the Small Business Association we've come across a lot of entities that are doing it the right way that have seen some fabulous results," said Mr. Johnson, who added that he was happy the government is attempting to streamline the bureaucracy for Bahamians trying to get into business.

"I hope we appreciate how revolutionary this type of approach can be and I hope that the government - as I believe the government has indicated - will make the necessary changes in the structure of some of our entities. I think that is where we're going to find the trouble, breaking down old barriers where people are accustomed to doing things [a certain way]."

Edward Laing, president of the Bahamas Light Industries Development Council, said his members were "up in arms over the obstacles that hinder them". Mr. Laing said he hoped the Domestic Investment Board would be successful in achieving what it has set out to achieve.

Minister Peet assured that his ministry and the government are committed to ensuring that Bahamian investors face "the shortest possible turnaround period" in getting answers to their applications.

The minister said that while the structure of the new board is now being decided in consultation with the various stakeholders, applications from Bahamian businesspeople were still being received and considered.

By: Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

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