Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Philip Brave Davis yesterday called on the business community to be a part of the “transformational” change needed to grow the economy, charging them to see how they can change their business models to benefit the workers and reduce the cost of living.
Davis, who was addressing the 31st Bahamas Business Outlook, asked businesses if they are willing “to look beyond short-term, narrow profit to see the possibilities of broader, long-term gain” in adopting some of the changes proposed in the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) Blueprint for Change, which include the introduction of a livable wage and an increase in the minimum wage.
“And I ask you further, as we seek to diversify the economy, to facilitate and promote growth in the new orange, green and blue sectors, what can you do to support the many Bahamians, especially those in the Family Islands, who continue to struggle with high levels of poverty and unemployment,” the prime minister said.
“Our ‘Blueprint For Change’ heralds a number of bold measures that our ‘New Day’ administration will take, from the introduction of a livable wage, to reducing energy costs, enhancing the ease of business and promoting a number of initiatives to increase growth and improve economic justice and dignity for all Bahamians. Have you identified what role your business will play? Are you able to look beyond
short-term, narrow profit to see the possibilities of broader, long-term gain? How can you help to drive down the cost of living to support the common wealth and the common good?”
Davis said while his administration can and will play its part in enhancing the macroeconomic environment of the country, it is only through constructive partnership with the business community that the country will succeed.
“With the debt-to-GDP ratio driven up to an unprecedented 100 percent by the previous administration, we have appointed a debt management committee and have already begun to take significant steps to manage the national debt and enhance our reputation with lenders. But what can you do to show investors and lenders that our Bahamas is a place where business is also conducted responsibly? I leave each of you to determine your answer,” he said.
The Davis administration signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and trade unions last month, agreeing to meet the standards of the Decent Work Program, which, among other things, calls for a review of wages in the country. The government has also reduced value-added tax (VAT) to ten percent from 12 percent, while removing the VAT-zero rating from breadbasket items and certain medications, in an effort to lessen the burden on the Bahamian people.
Pointing to the last two years under emergency orders and frequent lockdowns, Davis said there was initially a lot of commentary by the previous administration about the COVD-19 pandemic presenting an opportunity to make fundamental changes in the way things are done in The Bahamas.
“It came to nothing but the hunger for change among the Bahamian people remains. Big change, real change, transformational change. And what part can you play? Our economic plan will work only if you, too, are committed to being a part of that change. And the data shows, and I profoundly believe, that our plan is nothing less than the collective desire by the Bahamian people to promote positive, compassionate national development, one that meets the needs and aspirations of the many, not just the few,” the prime minister said.
“My friends, we must be willing not just to speak of change but to boldly bring it about. There is no question that when people can better provide for themselves, they are likely to be more productive at work. They are more likely to use their earnings to drive the local economy. And they are more likely to exercise active citizenship, that is, to take control of their lives and influence their society for the better. How will you strive for a more just and inclusive workspace? What measures will you take to do away with anti-competitive practices? And how do you plan to ensure your business affords respect and dignity to all its workers? Whether it is in establishing youth-targeted internship programs, increasing the base salary for your entry-level workers, ensuring pay parity in your workplace, or supporting social campaigns, there are countless first steps that the private sector can take, steps that you can take.”