Calling the Stafford Sands model of economic development “broken”, former Attorney General Alfred Sears called for a new investment, trade and industrial architecture to level the playing field for Bahamian investors seeking the same benefits and concessions as foreign direct investors.
“It is easier for foreign investors to do business in The Bahamas than Bahamian investors,” Sears said during a public lecture hosted by the National Progressive Institute on Tuesday.
“In 46 years of independence, The Bahamas continues to operate according to the assumptions of the Stafford Sands Model, with a deepening systemic dysfunctionality and diminishing competitive position in tourism and financial services. In 2018, the macro picture of the Bahamian economy reflects a broken model.”
That model, Sears argued, “is now in crisis”, as the current investment architecture increases the competitive advantages of foreign investors, who are generally the exclusive beneficiaries of incentives, concessions and state subsidies.
“Most foreign investors will have the benefit of unfettered access to global venture capital and the support of their respective export-import banks,” he said.
“Bahamian investors, on the other hand, do not enjoy those advantages and are prohibited by law from accessing the cheapest venture capital from outside The Bahamas. There is no export-import bank in The Bahamas to incentivize Bahamian enterprises to become regional and international players.”
On that basis, Sears called for legislation to give primacy to Bahamian investors and Bahamian and foreign joint ventures in order to create sustainable development.
“Currently the Cabinet, through the National Economic Council operated from the Office of the Prime Minister, facilitates only investment proposals submitted by foreign investors, where incentives are granted way above statutory provisions,” he said.
“Investment legislation, incorporating existing concession legislations, should be enacted to treat all investors, Bahamian and foreign, in an even, transparent and fair manner. Further, the legislation should set the threshold amount to qualify for concessions, the amount of concessions to be granted by the authority and above a threshold parliamentary approval, timeline for approval.
“There should also be a requirement for an EIA (environmental impact assessment) and to conduct public consultation with respect to any proposed development project that would have a significant impact on the environment and the way of life of a Bahamian community. Such legislation would bring certainty and increase public confidence in public administration.”
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