After months of collaborative work, the Economic Recovery Committee presented its Summary Report to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for review. First assembled in April, the ERC was charged by the P.M to research and develop strategic recommendations to inform the government’s policies as it addresses the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ERC Co-chair and CEO of Providence Advisors Limited, Kenwood Kerr, believes that the Committee’s recommendations could have a significant impact on the nation’s economy: “This report is the culmination of the efforts of dozens of Bahamians representing every major sector. Experts and non-expert engaged citizens volunteered hundreds of hours to help us chart the course for our economic recovery. Their passionate and patriotic efforts have yielded recommendations that have the potential to transform the Bahamian economy in powerful ways. Members of the public will be happy to find that some of these recommendations are being brought to the fore after being a part of the national dialogue for many years while other recommendations are new and innovative additions to the developmental discussion.
Every sector in this country is impacted.”
ERC members met weekly as a general body and worked closely together on cross-functional teams divided into 10 sub-committees with a focus on different areas of the economy. The sub-committees reviewed over 300 external recommendations submitted by members of the public and consulted with over 60 companies and organizations.
The end-result of this process was the 163 recommendations organized under the four themes of Resiliency, Dynamism, Inclusivity, and Sustainability. “As directed by the prime minister, our objective was to create a bold vision for a modern Bahamian Economy,” says ERC co-chair Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson “These recommendations, garnered from scores of Bahamians, have achieved this objective. We believe that taken together they support an economy that is resilient, dynamic, inclusive and sustainable.”
Under the theme of creating a more resilient economy, public observers will note the recommendation to establish a Sovereign Wealth Fund and a separate National Infrastructure Fund underpinned by holdings of Crown Land and government-owned real estate to mobilize capital for infrastructural and developmental initiatives. Recommendations of note under the Dynamic Economy theme focus on the promotion of investment opportunities within The Bahamas, including significantly expanding access to capital for Bahamians, the creation of Special Economic Zones in underdeveloped islands, the expansion of duty concessions beyond tourism and manufacturing to support all local businesses in their startup phase, and the creation of an “Entrepreneur Visa” to lay a foundation for local high-tech and fin-tech opportunities.
Other major recommendations under this theme include the development of a Master Plan for land use in Grand Bahama, major investments in Family Island infrastructure, modernization of the insolvency regime for companies declaring bankruptcy in The Bahamas, the legalization of marijuana for recreational, religious and medicinal use, as well as the granting of crown land for the cultivation of cannabis and the deregulation of CBD products.
The ERC also recommends a complete review of the tax burden on vulnerable segments of the local population to move towards a more progressive and equitable form of taxation, and the elimination of government red tape and bureaucracy to improve the ease of doing business.
The Inclusive Economy Recommendations call for significant investments to further extract the value from the Creative Economy. Other people-focused recommendations include training for Bahamian entrepreneurs to participate in the Shared Economy, the support of independent school boards and charter schools to improve educational outcomes, and the funding of pre-apprenticeship training for senior high school students. The Sustainable Economy theme involves reforms to local energy policy and environmental conservation policies, the collection of revenues on trans-Caribbean cables in our waters and on ships that come into our ports on their way to other destinations, and improving the transparency for approvals on large developments.
Accompanying the main report will be ten sub-committee reports that will be made available to the public in the coming weeks. These reports will provide more insight into the data and research behind each recommendation and will also provide a detailed view of each Committee’s contributions.
“This was not a passive process and every decision made going forward will be highly relevant to all Bahamians,” says Financial Secretary Johnson. “We engaged hundreds of individuals and organizations in creating this report. Many more will be engaged when the government decides which recommendations will be actualized. I encourage all citizens and residents of The Bahamas to read this report to see how these recommendations will impact their lives.”
Interested members of the public can read the full ERC report at http://www.opm.gov.bs