While lauding the forward movement of the Jack’s Bay development, Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Sands said yesterday it is imperative local businesses are in place to service that and other major developments pegged for South Eleuthera.
Thomas, who is also an investor in a number of projects on the island, said the Jack’s Bay project is an example of what can happen when Bahamians work together and signals the start of what he hopes is more Bahamians investing in the Family Islands.
“Projects like this confirm confidence in the island and in particular, South Eleuthera as a destination. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to encourage more projects like this, where Bahamians are investing in or developing the Family Islands, in various industries at various price points and scales. We recognize that major investments create spin-off business opportunities in the community,” Sands told Guardian Business.
“The Jack’s Bay project must be seen as one of a number of critical parts of a much larger strategy and model for the Family Islands which will positively impact The Bahamas as a destination. A successful strategy must include other developments being approved and moving forward to create critical mass. This will also lead to a greater need for improvements to the current infrastructure and support services and existing businesses must have an environment that is supportive, that empowers everyone across the board so that they can pivot quickly.”
The government recently signed a heads of agreement with Eleuthera Properties Ltd. for the development of the Jack’s Bay resort, golf course and marina project, which has already invested more than $100 million on a 10-hole Tiger Woods golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, beach club, tennis courts and 18-club villas, among other amenities.
The project is expected to provide a much-needed economic boost to South Eleuthera.
Speaking to the impact of the global pandemic on Eleuthera’s economy and the mandated lockdowns over the past several months, Sands said the current COVID-19 environment demands agility and now more than ever, all “unnecessary red tape” must be removed so that businesses can restart, revitalize and innovate.
“It is important to note that Bahamian small businesses are the heart of family island destinations as well as the economic safety net of the Bahamian economy. While we are happy to welcome large investors, our ultimate goal must be to retain on island the largest percentage possible of capital spent in the development of these projects,” he said.
“Additionally, local businesses need to be in place to service these projects as they begin to open. This is how the flow of economic benefits will permeate our communities.”
Sands renewed his call to the government to continue incentivizing investment in the Family Islands, thereby making business opportunities more accessible for Bahamians.
“We suggest seamless access to all existing incentives and concessions legislated within the country, through an easy, user-friendly, one-time application process, tied to the existing VAT (value-added tax) registration and business license of a business. This would include access to the Family Island Development Act, which is currently only accessible to individuals and not businesses unless otherwise approved despite the fact that, in the past, larger developments and private cruise ports have been able to attain approvals to access it,” he said.
“Two, that the government consider reducing the cost of land ownership. This can be achieved by exempting Bahamians and majority Bahamian businesses from closing cost taxes on land sales. And three, that the government offers VAT rebates to Bahamian businesses for capital investments and improvements for family island businesses.”
Thomas said overall, the Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce supports the cautious reopening of the economy, however, he said current travel requirements are unsustainable.
“It is a must within the context of a well-thought-out plan. It is obvious that the 14-day quarantines are a positive step forward but the reality is that it will create little to no viable domestic or international traffic for most businesses,” he said.
“We believe that there is a need to investigate how we further reduce the cost for testing so that it is more affordable to a domestic traveler. Additionally, I have also read an article in The Telegraph which claims that there is an even quicker, cheaper and far more reliable alternative to the more common polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. They are saying a maximum of 20 minutes turnaround with an overall accuracy of 98.98 per cent. I think that changes things and this is the type of solution we need, because we can confirm the status of a traveler right before they enter the plane or as they arrive, thereby doing away with the need to quarantine.”