The government’s highly touted extended stay visa program, which was a recommendation of the Economic Recovery Committee to inject up to $30 million into the struggling COVID-19 economy, has only attracted 61 applicants, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson revealed yesterday.
The government launched the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) program last October.
With visas costing roughly $1,000, the ERC stated that The Bahamas needed to attract at least 1,000 people to see the economic injection projected.
“The BEATS initiative is essentially a rebranding of our existing annual permit to reside; however, it allows persons to work and study remotely from within The Bahamas, while providing opportunities for them to immerse themselves in the culture and hospitality of our family of islands,” Johnson said yesterday while contributing to debate on the 2020/2021 mid-year budget in the House of Assembly.
“As an update, I can report that most of the individuals who have applied and been approved for the BEATS visa originate from the North American region, with the majority applying to work remotely and have their families reside in The Bahamas with them. Since the program launched, there have been 61 approvals.”
Johnson also spoke to his ministry’s efforts to improve trade between The Bahamas and the United Kingdom, aiming to complete a new trade agreement before the summer.
“The trade unit is presently preparing for the five-year review of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). This review takes place every five years to ensure that the objectives of the agreement are being met,” he said.
“In cooperation with the law reform commission, the office of the attorney general and the CARIFORUM secretariat, several priority pieces of draft legislation are undergoing a gap analysis to ensure that commitments in the EPA are met. The objective is to ratify the CARIFORUM-EU and CARIFORUM-UK EPA by second quarter 2021.”
Additionally, he said the Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration is in the process of creating a new legislative and regulatory environment where trade is supported and encouraged, as opposed to being stifled.
“We are collaborating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Attorney General, Customs Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Standards Bureau, and other agencies to look at existing trade agreements and new opportunities to increase trade in goods and services,” Johnson said.
“The unit is currently working along with the Office of the Attorney General and the law reform commission to review existing intellectual property and competition policies. And, of course, on the horizon, we have the nation’s eventual accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which will bring even more trade opportunities for local business owners.”