With $6 billion to $7 billion in investments in the pipeline across The Bahamas, 2,000 to 3,000 additional direct jobs will be created by those projects within the next three years, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said yesterday, adding that foreign direct investment (FDI) is the fastest way to grow the national economy.
“Overall, if you look at the $6 billion, $7 billion, I would imagine that would be in the region of 2,000 to 3,000 new jobs directly with other spill-offs in the other areas as the projects come out of the pipeline and the operations; of course, there are construction jobs once the projects get going,” Cooper said.
“So over time, I think it’s a healthy priming of the pump, if you will, for the years to come, and if we are able to sustain development growth, we’re seeing investments in tourism and in other sectors of the economy; we will have a very positive outlook for the future.”
Cooper, who is also minister of tourism, investments, and aviation, was a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show “Z Live” with Zhivargo Laing.
The deputy prime minister said, “When you talk about the new projects, the one thing I think we agree on is that the fastest way to get the economy going is really through foreign direct investments.
“We’ve been doing what I consider to be a very focused job in getting these projects going and out of the pipeline.”
In Exuma alone where $1.5 billion worth of projects have been approved, Cooper said, “I did an assessment on Exuma recently; in the region of 500 to 600 new jobs will be created in Exuma as a result of these $1.5 billion roughly coming out of the pipeline.”
Cooper also said there is an urgent need to increase the country’s room capacity.
Asked what he projects room capacity will be in the next three years as a result of the additional rooms coming on stream, he said, “I think we will increase overall room capacity in the next three years by perhaps 30, maybe 40 percent. I don’t have those numbers in front of me, but I think it will be fairly dramatic if we’re able to quickly get these projects going.”
Cooper was also asked when the Bahamian people can expect to see the $6 billion to $7 billion in investment projects materialize.
He said, “We have approved about $6 billion worth of new investments in the touristic sector. And I will give you an example; in the Exumas, it’s roughly $1.5 billion. We have Elizabeth Island. Construction is underway, early stages, but underway nonetheless. We have Hog Cay, as I mentioned before. Construction there is booming,
“They are in various stages. But construction work has begun in many of these projects already, so one of the things that we’re doing at Bahamas Investment Authority is working with the multi-agency group to help to facilitate these projects out of the pipeline.
“The water doesn’t do you any good [as long as] it’s the pipeline. It has got to come out of the tap. So one of the things that we’re doing is to try to accelerate that by working along with the various agencies of the government.”
He said investment projects are being rolled out all across The Bahamas.
“No island is left out,” Cooper said.
“Eleuthera is very popular. Abaco has been extremely popular with a large [amount of] rebuild or acquiring existing properties [that are] being refurbished.
“There are significant interests as well in Grand Bahama with announced projects that [are] not yet underway in terms of shovel in the ground.
“There’s another major project in the west of Grand Bahama that’s been approved. I believe that’s in the region of $300 million.
“There’s significant interest, as I’ve said before, in the Grand Lucayan resort.
“We have $200 million being invested in the Carnival Cruise Port and there’s significant construction already underway there in Grand Bahama …
“There are some other announcements that are going to be coming shortly for Grand Bahama. I leave that for the minister for Grand Bahama to announce, but suffice to say that the level of interest in Grand Bahama and New Providence has also been very strong.”
Cooper said the real growth potential for tourism and investments is in the Family Islands.
“And we are harnessing that growth,” he said.
“We are making sure every island is promoted in tourism. When we talk about The Bahamas, we’re talking about 16 island destinations, not just Nassau and Paradise Island and Grand Bahama, but I think they all are getting their play and there’s a very significant level of investment interest all across The Bahamas, which I believe demonstrates that investor confidence is very strong.”
While he said the fastest way to grow the economy is through foreign direct investments, Cooper said he hopes, too, to see greater Bahamian investment in the Bahamian economy.
“I’m also a strong proponent of Bahamians investing in tourism and Bahamians investing as a whole,” he said.
“You know, my background in business has been a life of encouraging people to save and investment, but when we look at the tourism business directly, it is regrettable that except for a few pockets like Cotton Bay or Island House, and some bonefish lodges and small boutique resorts, by and large, the largest investments in tourism have come from foreigners.
“So I think it goes without saying that that component of the economy has been critical in the growth of our country, but we have to continue to push and encourage more Bahamian domestic investments.”