NASSAU – Trade union leaders yesterday claimed they were intentionally “left out” of discussions surrounding the controversial Commercial Enterprises Bill.
Bernard Evans, the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB) president, during a press conference at BCPOU Hall accused the Minnis administration of rushing a bill which abuses the concept of economic development.
Noting the NCTUB hadn’t officially met as body to discuss the Commercial Enterprises Bill, Mr Evans said all the feedback he has received from the those who have reviewed it is in line with his view that the bill will not adequately generate jobs for Bahamians.
The bill, if enacted, would allow foreigners or Bahamians to receive “economic concessions” if they establish specified types of businesses in the Bahamas with an investment of no less than $250,000.
Such businesses would be entitled to a set number of work permits for executives, managers and people with “specialised knowledge”.
The low investment threshold has been met with harsh criticisms by many in the political and economic spheres of society; including former Prime Minister and Free National Movement leader Hubert Ingraham.
Of the low figure, Mr Evans said yesterday: “We know that something has to be done (to boost the economy), but it seems as if we are trying to do a fire sale and (it’s) cheapening what Bahamian is all about; and I don’t know if we need to do that.”
He added: “We cannot be prostituting ourselves at the expense of, at the risk that we suffer yet again the Bahamian working experience or guarantees, while the Bahamians or those who invest in the Bahamas don’t seem to get their fair shake.
“This whole thing seems to be stacked up (for) foreigners coming in. We don’t have a problem with that, but again, you should provide better concessions or advantages for Bahamians so that we can have a leg up and have a real true piece of the pie and be able to participate in the economic success of the country.”
Asked by The Tribune about the level of input the union has had on the bill to date, Mr Evans said frankly: “None.”
“As a matter of fact, we have drawn letters to that effect, to express that there are other issues that we have with the government since coming into power. They don’t have any real intentions of involving the unions in true dialogue.”
When asked for his comments on the ongoing discussion surrounding the bill, Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President Kingsley Ferguson questioned how many jobs could be derived from a $250,000 investment.
Mr Ferguson claimed enterprises of that value are normally small ventures manned by a single entrepreneur without hired staff.
Meanwhile, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard urged the government to reconsider the threshold, calling for it to be increased to as much as $6m or at least, $3m.Debate on the bill begins in the Senate on Monday.