The Bahamas government says it will show more commitment and support the development of home-grown businesses in tandem with direct foreign investment.
Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis told the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s Board of Directors and Membership Meeting that a key economic objective of his new administration is the development of an incentive framework for entrepreneurship.
He said this framework will facilitate local and international access to capital; the formation of joint ventures among private interests; improvement of business advisory and cultivation of tools to stimulate Bahamian entrepreneurship in tourism.
Prime Minister Minnis has also pledged that government will mplement a plan that will achieve the long, sought after goal of creating linkages between agriculture and tourism to “effect significant reduction in the food import bill of hotels and restaurants”.
He said the plan will enable the Bahamas Agricultural Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) to focus efforts on the production of select, quality products for both local and export markets.
The government will also move to privatize the Produce Exchange and will provide land, supplies, equipment and business services to Bahamian farmers to support the industry.
Tax incentives and concessions will be introduced to encourage Bahamian farmers and farming cooperatives throughout the country to promote sustained production and packaging initiatives and to ensure the continuous supply of quality products.
“We must boost local ownership in the tourism industry to promote sustainability and improve the livelihoods of Bahamians,” said Minnis, adding “by example, are there Bahamians interested in providing airline services to The Bahamas? What about Bahamians who may be able to design computer software for the many aspects of the tourism product?
“We must think boldly and widely about how Bahamians can own, or be involved in, the multiple dimensions of tourism,” he said, noting that tourism is the platform from which the country can boost and launch a network of inter-related businesses.
“Your organization encompasses a myriad of products including multinational resorts, boutique hotels and fishing lodges, water sports operations and ground transportation companies. As diverse as you are, you all share the common goal of increasing your bottom line and growing your businesses.
“This then, must be one of the driving forces behind the master strategic plan which – in collaboration with the private sector – my Administration will roll out during this term in office.
“The Bahamas has always been a country that has welcomed foreign investment, but the experience of Baha Mar has taught us a great lesson.”
He told the meeting that it is a common refrain here that local economy is not diversified enough, saying “we are confronted with the challenge of growing an economy that has been stagnant for several years. We are in a climate of unprecedented competition in the global and regional marketplace.
“While diversification is needed, there is extraordinary diversification that can still be gained within tourism,” Prime Minister Minnis said, adding that his government, which came to office on May 10, has a number of plans designed to drive the economy through tourism-related initiatives.
Among them, is the introduction of legislation to make it attractive for international filmmakers to produce cinematic productions at a fraction of the cost comparable to other leading offshore film locations.
Prime Minister Minnis said there are also new hospitality products such as vacation rental homes “which are today operating outside of the regulatory environment in our country.”
“Such products will have to be registered with the Ministry of Tourism and appropriate taxation will be applied to level the playing field and ensure their contribution to the public purse through registration, we can ensure that they meet our standards for safety and quality.”
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