Government is interested in understanding how it can help to get more local firms involved in the building processes of projects brought to The Bahamas by foreign investors.
Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Immigration Brent Symonette, who was the closing speaker at the Bahamas Engineers Architects and Allied Professionals’ (BEAAP) stakeholders forum at the British Colonial Hilton, asked the room of construction industry stakeholders how government could help to get them more involved in projects brought by foreign direct investors. But, he also challenged them to forge those relationships for themselves through groups like BEAAP.
“Should BEAAP do a better job of making the investor aware of what can be done by them?” asked Symonette.
“Can government intercede to say somewhere in the approval process that you have to go to the BEAAP?”
Symonette explained that there is a delicate balancing act government is required to do to attract investors and the professionals they bring with them to help to develop their ideas, and getting Bahamian firms in the mix once the approval process has begun.
“Where do I say to the owner and the agent, ‘You have to get a short-term work permit to come into the country to survey to see what work has to be done,’” he said.
He added: “The role of immigration, to that degree, is protecting the industry in the case of architects and engineers (by restricting foreign movement), but also allowing a fairly free movement of persons to come in so that they can consult [and] physically see the location (of their proposed development).”
Symonette also said the processes of the Bahamas Investment Authority and the National Economic Council (NEC) may have to be streamlined to ensure investors come to the table with only the necessary documentation to begin their processes.
He pointed to the questionable Oban Energies oil refinery and storage deal slated for Grand Bahama as an example, asking: “How far should Oban have gone with its EIA (environmental impact assessment) or impact studies before it put forth a proposal?”
Symonette said The Bahamas has to protect foreign direct investment while also creating opportunities for Bahamian firms.
He asked the participants of the BEAAP forum: “Do we have enough Bahamians in The Bahamas, with money [they are] willing to spend, who are doing projects to keep you busy?”
The room replied, “No.”