The members of Bahamas Engineers, Architects and Allied Professionals (BEAAP) will convene at the British Colonial Hilton tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to discuss how they can improve opportunities to sustain growth in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
“In the current environment, foreign consultants such as engineers and architects benefit from the lion’s share of fees earned in The Bahamas, specifically as it relates to foreign direct investment projects, but the overall liability rests on the Bahamians, who ultimately sign off on these projects” said BEAAP Chair Sonia Brown.
Brown added: “We have had some very promising meetings with relevant government agencies and believe that the forum provides a unique opportunity for private entities and government gatekeepers to dialogue regarding how we can improve the industry. We are of the view that, in the same way that the government of The Bahamas dictates a minimum representation of construction workers on job sites by sometimes literally visiting such sites and counting heads, similarly investors should be asked to identify what percentage of the highly skilled consulting work is being handled by Bahamian firms, a figure we believe to be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. Much of this work bypasses consulting firms that are licensed to conduct business in The Bahamas. In fact, this revenue does not even hit the local economy, as the transactions take place overseas.
“More importantly we don’t just practice here. We live here. Architectural and engineering decisions affect the health and safety of the public. As Bahamian professionals, we are fully invested in ensuring that international standards are adhered to.”
The BEAAP references the Annual Building Construction Statistics Report 2017 prepared by the Department of Statistics and notes that it evidences that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on the construction industry annually, and it extrapolates that potential fee earnings are in the tens of millions of dollars.
BEAAP is asking the government to require investors to identify their Bahamian construction consultants as a part of the FDI approval process and require meaningful involvement of Bahamian professionals at the design stage. At the same time, BEAAP is recommending that Bahamian construction professionals meet minimum insurance requirements for license renewal and also undergo regular professional development so that all local professionals perform at the required standard.
The seeds for robust involvement in FDI projects are planted during the negotiations phase of the heads of agreements executed by the government and FDI developer. The lack of involvement in these substantive projects significantly retards the growth potential of the AEC firms, which has a direct impact on being able to hire and retain Bahamian professionals studying abroad in the AEC industry and retain those practicing locally from the lure of emigrating abroad. Partnering with the AEC industry can be realized by ensuring local consultants in private practice are provided the opportunity for meaningful roles vis-à-vis FDI projects.
Brown said: “We fully support the efforts of the government to ascend to the WTO, and we believe that as a part of this process, enforcement of existing laws and implementation of policies that benefit persons that are duly licensed to operate business in The Bahamas are of great importance.”
BEAAP is a network of professionals in the AEC industry in The Bahamas dedicated to providing high-level technical expertise and service to clients. Its vision is to operate in an environment where Bahamian consulting firms engaged in the practice of engineering and allied professions have fair and equal access to all opportunities regarding the physical development of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Desmond Bannister, minister of works, and Brent Symonette, minister of immigration and trade and industry, will speak at this event. The forum includes construction professionals and senior government officials charged with investment opportunities and regulation of businesses, management of immigration, oversight of the construction industry and other relevant parties.
BEAAP members include: Caribbean Civil Group, Caribbean Coastal Services, Chris Symonette & Associates, Engineering Solutions & Consulting, Engineering & Technical Services, Grand Bahama Engineering Procurement & Construction, Graphite Engineering Ltd., GSRC Integrity Consulting Corp. Ltd., Integrated Building Services, Islands By Design, Target Surveying & Engineering Ltd., TDG Architects Ltd., Utilities Consulting & Contracting Services, Waypoint Consulting Ltd., Whittingham Design Consultants and Winston Jones & Associates Architects Ltd.