Govt amends Enterprises Bill
After much controversy following the passing of the Commercial Enterprises Bill, government has made amendments in order to better facilitate Bahamian investors who want to start up technology companies.
The legislation now requires no minimum investment for Bahamians to receive the benefits of the bill.
The amendments, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel, were made in the House of Assembly last Wednesday.
Amendments were made to clause four of the bill, to include Bahamians in the language of the legislation, whereas its original iteration only called for a person to “establish with an investment of not less than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars”.
Clause four now reads: “established by a Bahamian; a non-Bahamian with an investment of not less than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; or a joint venture or partnership between a Bahamian and a non-Bahamian”.
For the purpose of the bill, a Bahamian is classified as “a natural person or legal person registered in accordance with the Companies Act in which not less than sixty percent of its shares are beneficially owned by Bahamians. It explains that a non-Bahamian is a “natural person or legal person being an incorporated or unincorporated body formed under the laws of a country other than The Bahamas and registered under the Companies Act”.
The bill came under heavy scrutiny because it appeared to favor foreigners in the government’s endeavor to diversify the economy by attracting technology firms. The government is seeking to make Grand Bahama the Silicon Valley of this region.
The bill seeks to liberalize the granting of work permits to an enterprise that wishes to establish itself in The Bahamas and requires work permits for its management team and key personnel.
Government explained that the bill is designed to attract “new and diverse businesses that are not looking at The Bahamas because of the rigidities that affect new businesses in this country”.
The country’s ease of doing business ranking has slumped significantly in recent years; The Bahamas was ranked 121 out of 190 economies when it comes to facilitating private sector activity.
However, the establishment of the bill will efficiently consider and determine every work permit application in a timely manner, making doing business and staffing technology companies easier.
The bill allows for an employee of an enterprise that has a specified commercial enterprise certificate to enter The Bahamas “freely”. However, the work permit application has to be made within 30 days after entry. The certificate will remain valid for one year and is subject to approval.
In terms of applications for work permits, the bill also explains that the director of immigration has 14 days to grant the work permit, but if the director fails to do so within that time period, the work permit is deemed to have been granted.
A work permit granted will be valid for three years and renewable for an additional period of up to three years.
The employees who are granted work permits also have to be certified professionals that comply with conditions outlined by relevant regulatory agencies and bodies.
The bill’s first schedule carries the list of enterprises that are subject to approval; some include captive insurance, reinsurance, international trade, nano technology, call centers, arbitration, maritime trade and aviation registration.