The prime minister made public the recommendations from the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) on suggestions to stimulate the economy after the economic loss resulting from the pandemic.
Also, the recommendations are meant to assist us in building a more resilient economy, presumably one less at risk to international and natural shocks.
The members of the ERC gave of their time and expertise and organized recommendations on the various sectors of the economy, placing emphasis on areas where they believe Bahamian capital, manpower and expertise might be combined to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and improve personal and family incomes.
Bahamian governments have been engaged in exercises to diversify the economy, to stimulate, to foster and or to create new areas of economic activity for longer than we have existed as an independent country.
The recommendation that the country ought to enhance its ability to feed itself has been repeated so often as to send the listening public into a trance of disbelief.
More public money has been spent on prioritizing agriculture and fisheries than anyone cares to remember.
Countless Bahamians have received training in those fields at the university level and beyond. Indeed, promising to pursue studies in these areas are almost guarantees of receipt of a government-sponsored scholarship.
The Bahamas has joined every regional and hemispheric initiative – at CARICOM, at the OAS and at the United Nations — to enhance these primary sectors.
The first organized study of our fisheries capacity was undertaken by the United Nations in the 1970s.
Recommendations for the adoption of modern technologies in farming and fishing, and in food manufacturing and distribution have been well documented over the past 47 years of nationhood. The latest expression of this is at BAMSI in North Andros.
Legislation incentivizing the sectors with tax and customs duty concessions boggle the mind. And, notwithstanding a stubborn belief among many Bahamians to the contrary, successive governments have made agricultural lands available to verifiable farmers at exceptionally low costs for multiple decades.
The suggestion that adjustments to stated investment policies could benefit from reform are similarly baffling.
The Industries Encouragement Act has provided incentives and concessions to industry since 1970, as has the production of local spirits and wines since the early 1960s. These acts have been routinely amended to increase accessibility especially for Bahamians. In an effort to expand access even further, special concessions were made available to micro-manufacturers under provisions of the Tariff Act beginning in the 1990s.
Recommendations to expedite or “fast track” permanent residency certificates for high-value applicants date at least to 1989 and have been a part of published Bahamian investment incentive literature since 1993.
Similar policies regarding expeditious consideration of proposed foreign direct investment projects litter investment policy statements by successive governments.
Amendments to the Hotels Encouragement Act have over the past 25 years reduced the qualifying standards to ensure that Bahamian-owned hotel or motel facilities with as few as five guest rooms qualify for tax and customs exemptions.
The critical importance of moving to a digital economy became a part of the national conversation in the 1990s and the government’s e-portal was formally launched nearly 10 years ago.
Serious attention has been given to enhancing environmental sustainability since the 1990s. Today, a separate ministry is dedicated to this important matter.
And improving national infrastructure and strengthening preparedness and response to natural disasters have similarly benefitted from informed planning and implementation initiatives.
If criticism is warranted, it is in the predilection of governments to begin anew, to reinvent the wheel, to restate the obvious rather than to get on with the job of governing.
What The Bahamas needs urgently, more so than new initiatives, is competence and efficiencies.