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Chamber monitoring increase in foreign labor under Commercial Enterprises Act

A decrease in the number of labor certificate applications may not mean fewer foreigners are applying to work in The Bahamas, according to Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation CEO Edison Sumner, who said foreign laborers are more than likely circumventing the labor department and applying to work in the country through the Commercial Enterprises Act.

Earlier this week Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said the reduction in labor certificate applications translated to more jobs in the market for Bahamians.

However, Sumner said because of the introduction of the Commercial Enterprises Act, many foreigners are actually applying directly for licensing under that act, where they don’t have to go through the traditional means of applying for jobs or applying for work permits – because of provisions already in the act that allow them to be short-circuited.

“We’re hearing that there has been an increase in the number of interested international and local companies that have begun applying for the commercial enterprises certificates. We know that some things are happening in Freeport and other areas, so that may account for some of those numbers being a bit lower,” Sumner said in a recent interview with Guardian Business.

“Because those persons applying for those certificates aren’t necessarily doing so through a Bahamian firm, they are making direct application with the help of their legal advisors to the government for their certificates.”

Passed earlier this year, the Commercial Enterprises Act provides for the granting of work permits for key personnel and management teams of companies or enterprises seeking to establish in The Bahamas with a minimum investment of $250,000.

Sumner said the chamber is monitoring the increase in applications under the act to ensure Bahamians are not being locked out of developing industries.

“From our perspective, we are always monitoring these things, because while we understand there will always be a need to bring in expertise to the country, a part of the whole idea of bringing expertise in is that they will be able to transfer their skills and knowledge onto local talent who would be able to take over those jobs in two or three years from now,” he said.

“We made that very clear in our discussions on the Commercial Enterprises Bill that there has to be a very dominant part of the discussion that Bahamians be able to get engaged in these industries as well. And even if people come in to work, a part of the arrangement should be some level of skills transfer for those individuals.”

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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