Govt must continue liberal approach to investments
The unemployment rate increased from 10 percent to 10.7 percent from May to November 2018, according to the latest data released by the Department of Statistics. Youth unemployment decreased but remained high, going from 24.1 percent to 23.1 percent.
The International Monetary Fund projected we hit 2.3 percent GDP growth last year, and that there will be 2.1 percent growth this year.
This growth primarily results from the recent strength of the U.S. and Canadian economies. North Americans with money have flocked to our shores.
While contributing to debate in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguliar said that following a 15 percent increase in stopover visitors in January, they expect a 12 percent increase in February.
“For the 11 months ended November 30, 2018, preliminary data reveals that the number of foreign visitors to our country increased by a whopping 425,369 persons or 7.7 percent. More importantly, stopover visitors – that portion of our foreign visitors that spend the most, in fact, 20 times more than a cruise passenger – increased by 205,542 persons or a mind-blowing 17.1 percent. These additional visitors, Mr. Speaker, contributed over $300 million of additional spending in our economy in 2018,” he said.
Tourism is booming. Major investment projects such as Baha Mar have opened. Other big ones such as The Pointe are ongoing. New developments such as the Hurricane Hole project are just beginning.
The Bahamas is growing but more robust growth is needed to significantly drive down our chronically high jobless rate.
The 1990s were a much better time in The Bahamas – especially after the Free National Movement (FNM) won in 1992. At the end of that decade we were growing in the seven-plus percent range.
We need more investment – both foreign and domestic. This government has green-lighted major proposals. New ones, such as for the purchase and redevelopment of Grand Lucayan in Grand Bahama, are on the table.
The ITM Group, for example, suggests a $130 million plan. It involves redevelopment of the Grand Lucayan resort complex and the transformation of Grand Bahama’s cruise port into an adventure park. It would produce 2,500 direct jobs and 18,000 indirect jobs, according to the group’s proposal.
This is one of a group of proposals to the government for the Grand Lucayan.
The Minnis administration should make it a priority to expedite investment approvals with appropriate investors in the shortest possible time. If heads of agreements and contracts are required, those too should be done with haste once all requirements are met. The vibrant growth we need will only come if much, much more investment is unleashed.
A liberal investment approval policy is good for Bahamians and the governing party. Employed people who can pay their bills, save and invest are happier voters. Happier voters are more likely to return the incumbent party.
Capitalism is an amazing creative force. But it only works when you let the capital flow. Doing so should be the guiding principle of this government.