The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) in its draft Revitalization and Economic Expansion of Freeport (REEF) action plan, released yesterday, calls for numerous changes to the structures of conducting business on the island that will improve the ease of doing business, including greatly reducing bureaucracy in many processes.
The REEF plan lays out myriad changes that its committee has put to the public for consultation. Some of these changes include the negotiation of an agreement that the GBPA approve specified low-risk business licenses without needing to refer these to the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA); the ceasing of the cost of living index increase in business license fees until there is a turnaround in the economy and a cap at 75 percent above the original license fee amount upon issuance; applications for restaurants, liquor stores, bars, nightclubs and related businesses to be processed through the GBPA virtual business portal, including government approvals; and a call for the GBPA to amend procedures to allow businesses that do not require physical office space to obtain a business license without requiring that they rent approved premises.
The committee also outlines proposed changes for foreign investors and residents, including assessing the right for permanent residents to work in businesses 100 percent owned by them; giving foreign investors access to a virtual business portal being developed by the GBPA for Bahamian investors; clarifying when a heads of agreement is required for a foreign business transaction and when it is not; and automating, through an online portal, the 48-hour processing of annual residency permits in order to eliminate bureaucratic subjectivity or uncertainty.
The committee also calls for know your client (KYC) protocols to be streamlined and for banks to use those KYC developments to exact clear processes for opening local bank accounts.
The committee also suggests medium to long-term goals for ease of doing business in Freeport, outside of the already mentioned quick turnaround structural changes.
“Enhance banking solutions for international investors and businesses and expatriate workers. Encourage challenger banks to establish in Freeport. Digitize all administrative and governance processes in Freeport to the maximum extent reasonably possible. Agree with banks to link to their KYC requirements,” the committee urges.