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FOUR Bahamian businesses - a restaurant and three luxury retailers recently came up winners in the MasterCard-Ministry of Tourism 'Find Your Way' initiative, walking away with an early Christmas present of cash from the international credit and debit card company for being number one in the increase of MasterCard sales volume for the month.
The most recent winners were the Kafe Kalik restaurant at Lynden Pindling International Airport, Carlo Milano and Effy Jewellers of Bay Street, and A la Plage, Marina Village, Paradise Island. Each received international recognition and a cheque for $1,000, rewarding them for their performance.
"The outstanding performance of our winning merchant ...
Workers at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) received a much-needed boost just in time for Christmas, Guardian Business can confirm, picking up a bonus worth a full week of wages.
Although workers have been promised another bonus equivalent to half a week of pay in January, the rest of the annual payment remains a sharp bone of contention.
Darren Woods, the vice president of the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union, told Guardian Business a further bonus equivalent to another week of pay is a key issue in the talks.
"They made a payment for the Christmas bonus late last week," he said. "Initially they weren't in a position to pay anything. The fact they paid something and gave a commitment to make another payment is a very good thing. But the remaining week is a problem for us."
Woods told Guardian Business that the bonus from last week depended on the seniority of the employee. For workers on the low end, he speculated it worked out to around $250, on average. On the higher end, KFC workers would received $330. On a typical year, KFC workers receive a bonus worth two-and-a-half weeks of wages.
"They would have preferred to have received as much as possible up front before Christmas," he added.
Negotiations between the two parties for a new deal first began on Dec 9, and after taking a break for the holidays, they are not expected to resume until the New Year. KFC has insisted that to stay competitive the fast-food chain must reduce wages and benefits, claiming the company is already paying far more than rival restaurants.
Woods said his side is willing to step up at a moment's notice to solve the remaining issues.
"Whenever and wherever, we are always committed. We are cognizant not to do it at the detriment of the business. We want to form a proper alliance and partnership so both sides are happy, if it's possible."
Payment of the remaining week of bonuses will no doubt be on the agenda when the sides meet again in January, along with a slew of other issues sure to impact a large number of Bahamian employees. On Nov 22, KFC sent a letter to the union indicating it would not be in a position to pay some benefits. Representatives of the workers felt the notice came too late.
Dion Foulkes, Minister of Labor, has been involved in the negotiations as a mediator and insisted that progress is being made. The labor agreement between the two parties expired on September 24 of this year.
A local farm operation is getting a major boost after the Melia Nassau Beach Hotel took the decision to source Bahamian-grown produce from the company.
The link between the hotel and local farmers is getting rave reviews from foodies and those whose livelihoods are blooming. Chiccharney Farms in North Andros began working with the hotel that will be part of the Baha Mar resort more than one year ago. The company met with chefs and went through product sampling and selection.
In September, Chiccharney began providing produce in bulk for Melia, the Spanish-based chain with 350 hotels in 30 countries, a network that now includes the former Wyndham.
"We're excited," said Chavara Roker-Eneas, president of Chiccharney. "What Melia is doing empowers a whole lot of people."
Chiccharney has already re-branded and expanded, thanks to an increasing commercial appetite for locally-grown produce and its contract with Melia, providing sweet potatoes, onions, habaneros, limes, Haden mangoes, arugula, thyme, watermelon and avocados. More leafy vegetables are planned. Organic produce is also available.
"Melia orders in bulk," says Roker-Eneas, a third generation farmer. "One order can consume what it would have taken 12 weeks to grow." If Chiccharney runs out of sweet potatoes or onions, it partners with other farmers in Nassau, including Lucayan Farms, to provide produce.
For Melia, which is planning to open several new restaurants with different themes, doing business with local growers and suppliers is part of a corporate culture that not only benefits the local economy but allows hotel guests to enjoy local fare.
"Melia Nassau Beach is committed to long-term economic and environmental growth. Efforts to empower local farmers, both from Nassau and the Family Islands, are a staple in Melia's pledge to give its guests the highest quality goods while sustaining the environment," said Andrew Tilley, Melia's general manager. It's a commitment that plants all the right seeds for growth in farmers' minds.
"The partnership is great for us," said Roker-Eneas, who is willing to work as hard as she has to in order to maintain her company's reputation of quality and consistency in the fresh produce market,that's known to be demanding and finicky. "Nothing that is worth doing comes easy," she said. "We do almost everything ourselves. Throughout the entire process since we started working with Melia, I was pregnant. I was packing and lifting boxes, making deliveries, up to two weeks before delivery." Her son is now six weeks old and the new mom is already looking to the future, with plans to launch a storefront this fall.
As for Melia, identifying willing suppliers has been easier than expected in The Bahamas.
"We will soon reveal our sea-to-shore specialties that will do for the fishing industry what we hope our fresh produce purchasing commitment is doing for farming," said Tilley. "The best thing is that the guests love it, because they want to experience what the country has to offer."
Fort Charlotte has been closed indefinitely to parties, while the Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) determines how best to move forward with using the national monument as a revenue earner, Tribune Business can reveal.
This comes on the heels of a movement coordinated by a Bahamian Club Owners Association to have "outdoor parties" operating as weekly nightclubs shut down, and restaurants that operate dances without the necessary music and dance licenses to cease and desist.
John Watling's Distillery is set to purchase the multimillion-dollar Buena Vista manor from the National Insurance Board (NIB) to "control its destiny".
The historic site, more than 200 years old, has traded hands many times over the centuries and remains one of the capital's most iconic buildings. Investors in the new John Watling's Distillery confirmed yesterday that they are in the process of buying the property.
"We had a lease on the building with the option to buy. We are exercising that right now," said Pepin Argamasila, one of the principles of the distillery. "We don't want to talk about money, but the buy makes sense given our investment in the property. This is our brand and we want to control its destiny."
Although the distillery is buying Buena Vista, investors say "it really belongs to The Bahamas", as they see themselves more as caretakers than owners.
After more than a month in business, Nassau's newest attraction is reporting steady visits from tourists and Bahamians alike. The distillery is preparing to roll out a new advertising campaign for downtown Nassau in the coming weeks to coax cruise ship arrivals "up the hill".
"We want them to get off the beach and explore the rest of Nassau," Argamasila said.
The attraction should get some help soon from some big tourism players.
According to the distillery, Majestic Tours is planning a tour that includes Graycliff Chocolate Factory, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Junkanoo Museum and John Watling's Distillery. Islandz Tours is already funneling tourists through these attractions. The next step is tour operators pitching these attractions to cruise ship companies. If successful, this area of the capital could become a major contender to Bay Street.
"You really see it coalescing. It is trying to create a destination. It is not just us, but taking the rest of the neighborhood into consideration," Argamasila explained.
The owners are waiting patiently for the right restaurant partner, seeking to offer Bahamian fine cuisine with an international flare.
Argamasila said that the business is also seeking outdoor food providers to set up on the front lawn serving lunch to visitors. The goal is to keep the opportunities Bahamian and support the community, ideally sourcing native ingredients.
The philosophy fits in with the overall old-fashioned experience at John Watling's Distillery. The site is now brewing a number of liquors, all of which are finding themselves on local shelves. Investors are planning to begin exporting the product in the near future.
"A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars."
Over the weekend, the community of Englerston paid its final respects to a wonderful woman, who, for most of her life, resided in the constituency that she so dearly loved. Her name was Rosmal Rosemary Smith Fowler, affectionately called either Rosemary or Fowler, but, more often than not, never by both. And yet to others like me, out of deference to the power of her spirit, she was always Mrs. Fowler. She left us on July 11, and therefore, with her passing this week, we would like to Consider this...What is the legacy of this flower called Fowler?
Her early years
Rosmal Rosemary was born on October 4, 1936 to the late Ronald and Bernice Frazier Smith of Lower Bogue, a small sleepy settlement in North Eleuthera. She spent her early years there, obtaining an education at the Lower Bogue All-Age School and in her church where she learned the principles of Christian life that remained with her throughout her 77 years.
Mrs. Fowler moved to Nassau after completing her basic education and lived with her parents on Ragged Island Street. As was customary in those days, early in life Rosemary Fowler began working at several restaurants and hotels in the capital and on Eleuthera. She married Haywood Fowler in December 1957 and had 10 children.
A deeply spiritual life
Anyone who knew Mrs. Fowler quickly came to appreciate that she was a deeply spiritual person. She loved her home church, the Grants Town Wesley Methodist Church, and was not only an active member there, but was described by its former pastor, Rev. Frederick Kelly, as someone who "could always be consulted and trusted with deeply confidential matters". It was patently clear that those who paid tribute to her during the funeral on Saturday recognized that Mrs. Fowler's value system was prioritized in the order of church, family and political party.
Her political commitment
Rosemary Fowler supported the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party in the early days of its march to freedom, including the achievement of universal suffrage as well as the often frustrating and sometimes painful journey that ultimately culminated in majority rule in 1967 and independence in 1973.
Mrs. Fowler lived all of her adult life in the Englerston constituency, primarily through Podoleo Street. She passionately and uncompromisingly supported her members of Parliament, beginning with Sir Clifford Darling and the Hon. Peter Bethel (both deceased), yours truly and, more recently, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin. Mrs. Fowler would often boast that she "was born a PLP and will die a PLP" and that she was "more PLP than [Sir Lynden] Pindling or [Perry] Christie".
I first met Mrs. Fowler during the 1997 general elections campaign when I ran for the Englerston constituency. I engaged her as a full-time employee in the constituency campaign office, and she worked tirelessly during the campaign to ensure that the office was immaculately maintained. In those days, successful candidates were not paid an allowance to maintain a constituency office and therefore, after the general elections which the PLP lost, Mrs. Fowler was ecstatic to learn that she would remain on the full-time constituency office staff. She worked even more diligently to ensure that everything was in its proper place and that persons visiting the constituency office were welcomed and comfortable. Mrs. Fowler was often the first to greet me when I arrived at the constituency office and one of the last to leave, ensuring at all times that her MP was supported in order to assist as many constituents as possible.
Upon being succeeded in Englerston by the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin, Mrs. Fowler was again retained by her new member of Parliament, proving to be as protective and supportive then as she was to the preceding member. Mrs. Fowler's boundless energy was legendary. Mrs. Hanna Martin recalled that during the 2012 election campaign, she and several campaign workers, including Mrs. Fowler, came to a wall in the area that was being canvassed and Mrs. Fowler was admonished to return to the car because of the impediment that the wall presented. As only she could, Mrs. Fowler, then 75-years-old, jumped the wall just as the other campaign workers did. She would neither be outdone nor left behind.
Mrs. Fowler loved political rallies and party conventions and, although she did not have a car, was always present early and positioned herself up-front and center to ensure that she heard every word emanating from the speakers.
She loved her Progressive Liberal Party, never in blind faith, but with a critically maternal perspective, because she believed that it was the organ that provided the greatest opportunity to enable her children and grand-children to participate more fully in the development of her beloved Bahamas.
Mrs. Fowler never forgot the quiet village of Lower Bogue from whence she came. Neither did she ever forget that in her early days in Nassau, her community in Englerston represented a larger version of the village that she left in North Eleuthera.
A lasting legacy
Although she never owned a house or a car, Mrs. Fowler welcomed everyone into her home and could always rely on friends to catch a ride, whether she was going to church, a political meeting or to visit a family member or friend in need of companionship or counsel.
Mrs. Fowler was a rare woman who had the capacity to work tirelessly on whatever task to which she applied herself. She did what needed to be done because it was what had to be done. She demonstrated a level of commitment to her church, family and party that exceeded the expectations of those who sought her assistance. Mrs. Fowler did not have to be asked to undertake a task. It was as if she knew exactly what needed to be done and went about achieving it, and did so without complaining or without any expectation of reward. She was a dedicated and diligent soldier, fighting in her own way for a cause to which she was always devoted.
Mrs. Fowler represented all that is good about Bahamians: ever mindful of the needs of others, unselfish, altruistic and concerned about her fellow Bahamians. She was the personification of so many unsung heroes in cities and settlements strewn across the vast archipelago of The Bahamas. It is persons like Rosemary Fowler who made it possible for so many of our leaders to rise above the noise and fray and to be imbued with the confidence that persons like Mrs. Fowler always "had their backs" in the worst of times so they could forge the best of times.
Mrs. Fowler's contribution and legacy were recognized on Thursday past, when her mortal remains lay in state and she was honored at the Lynden Pindling Center, eulogized by senior party members including Mr. Errington "Minky" Isaacs, chairman emeritus, yours truly, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin, the deputy prime minister and the prime minister. Mrs. Fowler would have been extremely pleased by the plaudits that were proffered by those who appreciated her indomitable spirit.
Today's body politic is sadly lacking individuals like Mrs. Fowler, selfless and committed to serving our society in a quiet but profound way. What our 21st century Bahamas needs, especially our political world, is to return to values that shaped people like her, honed her decency and dedication to her beliefs until she shone like gold amidst the brass of the crowd. Mrs. Fowler was truly a quiet hero of the quiet revolution. Simply put: we need more like her. The flower that we called Fowler will truly be missed.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
During Formula One, whether it be Shanghai, Montreal or Abu Dhabi, the Paddock Club is synonymous with more than a great view of the race. It's also a place for high-flyers in the business and racing scene to meet, talk cars and perhaps do a little business.
David McLaughlin, the UK Event Director for Bahamas Speed Week, doesn't expect to duplicate the Formula One experience.
But he intends on coming pretty close.
"It's a model that works for Formula One," he said. "It's business to business, and we've had some tremendous interest so far."
As part of Bahamas Speed Week, running from November 30 until December 4, event organizers have begun to sell booths in the Paddock Club to stimulate sponsorship and business - starting at $10,000 a pop.
While the driving force behind the event is tourism, McLaughlin said the Paddock Club, located in the center of a 1.1 mile temporary racetrack at Arawak Cay, will be a buzzing hive of corporate activity, giving participants a chance to forge contacts among elite players in the business world.
When it was an annual event in The Bahamas from 1954 to 1966, Bahamas Speed Week attracted some
of the whos-who in the racecar and celebrity scene.
It's revival promises to be a return to this former glory.
Organizers expect around $100 million worth of racecars to arrive on Nassau's shores in what should be a massive boom for the tourism industry.
Sir Stirling Moss, the legendary Formula One driver, will serve as patron to the event's much-anticipated revival, and dozens of high-end businessmen and racecar enthusiasts will be joining him in the pits.
The goal, according to Jimmie Lowe, the event's president, is to fill between 4,000 and 5,000 hotel rooms as a direct result of Bahamas Speed Week. Restaurants and retail centers throughout the island are also expected to benefit.
McLaughlin said the focus of Bahamas Week Speed is on tourism, and of course, the fine pieces of machinery. But as in any high-level racing event, business is business, and the Paddock Club will serve as the social - and corporate - nerve center.
"They'll have a captive audience," McLaughlin pointed out. "There is a huge arena to talk cars and talk business."
So far, the response has been impressive.
Carlo Milano, Graycliff and the Grand Bahama Port Authority are just a few of the major players that have stepped up to the sponsorship plate.
For $10,000, businesses can snap up a 20-by-20 foot booth, he said.
There are a number of additional updates and options available, including bronze, silver, gold and platinum packages. At a varying scale of price, these classifications give participants access to different perks and services, such as invitations to the gala, VIP treatment and advertising space in the event program.
EFG International has also purchased a booth in the Paddock Club, and Shell Oil, McLaughlin added, has stepped up as the event's official oil and gas supplier.
Lowe said the Grand Bahama Port Authority's decision to purchase a bronze package is a testament to their push for greater visibility to the visiting crowd.
"They want to promote themselves, perhaps throw in a few free tips and attract people to visit afterwards," he explained.
These business and corporations join a growing list of sponsors for a weekend starting to pick up some momentum.
Last week, Guardian Business reported that Bahamas Speed Week is currently mulling over the possibility of building an official racetrack for subsequent events. Talks are expected to begin soon between the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism.
"This is what we envision going forward," Lowe said earlier.
"But nothing is set in stone, If it did happen, it would facilitate a larger clientele coming, more room nights for Bahamian hotels and the economic impact could be far reaching."
Pictet Bank - the official sponsor of the gala banquet and Auction of Promises - is one of the world's leasing international private financial institutions with a presence in 19 countries.
Tickets for Bahamas Speed Week will go on sale at the end of this week.
"The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance, which envelop our future."- John Maynard Keynes
In part one of the "Nation for Sale" series, we questioned whether The Bahamas has become a nation for sale to the highest or best positioned foreign bidders. In part two, we considered the legacies of our prime ministers, past and present, to determine whether by their policies regarding foreign investors, we have been and continue to be a nation for sale. This week, we would like to Consider This... do we need to urgently adopt a modern, progressive investment policy for the 21st century if we are going to finally realize the dream of empowering Bahamians in a more meaningful way?
The anchor project template
In his first term as prime minister, Perry Christie accentuated the benefits of his government's anchor project policy. The plan was to have a substantial investment, anchored on each major island of The Bahamas with the tripartite objective of (1) expanding the economic activity on that island, (2) encouraging residents to stay there instead of migrating to islands where greater employment opportunities existed and (3) encouraging persons who had left their island to return because of the jobs and other economic prospects that would be created by such anchor projects.
The government felt that anchor projects could be achieved by offering foreign investors large tracts of Crown land for which, in some cases, the government would receive an equity position in the project. The thinking was that the government would provide the land for the investment, and the foreign investor would offer shares to the government. The application of this policy would conceptually present a mutually beneficial result, and, in the fullness of time, there would be cumulative benefits to our citizens. Few would challenge the rationale of such a policy, but there were some unanswered questions.
A more progressive variant of this approach would entail a government policy that ensures that the residents of the island on which the anchor project is situated receive concessions for the ancillary Bahamian-owned enterprises that will inevitably flow from such anchor projects. Hence, local entrepreneurs would know that the government policy would ensure that the businesses related to the primary investment, including transportation, watersports, artists and artisans, restaurants, night clubs, laundry facilities and other related services that would spin off from the primary investment, would be available only to them. It is not enough for a government to focus only on the primary anchor investor; it is equally important to engage urban planners, architects, environmentalists and others to ensure that a holistic approach to development is undertaken from start to finish.
Another enticement to foreign investors is the granting of concessions by the government, usually in the form of financial benefits, including, for example, a tax holiday for a certain period of time. Perhaps the "mother of all concessions" was that granted to the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which to this day is the beneficiary of enormous tax and other advantages. Similarly, the hundreds of millions of dollars granted to Kerzner International were as breathtaking as they were mind-boggling for a company that landed on our shores only with the promise of raising the sunken city of Atlantis from the ashes of a dated, lackluster and tired property that had changed ownership several times in a single decade.
The granting of concessions is a practical tool used by governments the world over as an inducement to foreign investment. However, the larger consideration is whether the country is really getting value for the concessions that it bestows on foreign investors and, if so, to what extent? The answer to the question is that we really don't know.
The reality of this approach is that the foreign investor wins coming and going. They benefit by having considerable taxes waived, often for lengthy periods of time, with the justification that they create jobs, which is a noble objective. But they also win by not being required to pay any taxes when they repatriate the profits that they earn in The Bahamas.
If we are going to be more discerning in our approach to foreign direct investment, we need to be able to better quantify the benefits that accrue to the country before we offer and grant concessions to such investors. The simplistic and politically expedient approach to obtaining jobs in return for concessions is no longer enough. While this template might have worked in the past, this model fosters a country of servile workers who own little or nothing, who are not empowered through ownership and whose only benefit is a salary at the end of the week or month. In addition, it is long overdue to seriously consider imposing a withholding tax on repatriated profits that are earned here. Otherwise, the investor benefits both ways, at our expense.
Just as we openly welcome foreign investors here, we should consider what kind of concessions would enhance our own citizens' chances for success, and we should grant them to those Bahamian enterprises that satisfy certain threshold parameters.
The long-term development needs of our country
It becomes increasingly obvious and immediately important that we need to have a long-term plan for our country. It is imprudent for successive governments to approach governance of a small country such as ours without more clearly defined and generally agreed upon approaches to national goals and objectives, such as what we want The Bahamas to be and a time frame for achieving those objectives. It is virtually impossible to grow our country in the short term without a clearly defined long-term horizon as to the nature of investments that will benefit our country.
Every Bahamian is an investor
We often hear about the plethora of consultants who are constantly hired by the government, often where there are qualified Bahamians to perform contracted assignments. We need a renewed commitment to Bahamianization regarding consultants engaged by the government. Bahamians are alienated and disconnected from their government for several legitimate reasons, one of which is the absence of a deliberate determination to ensure that, wherever possible, Bahamians are provided the first opportunity to participate in the engagements that successive governments hasten to distribute to foreign consultants - another symptom of a nation for sale.
Furthermore, if the government is thinking about privatizing our national assets, Bahamians should be afforded the first opportunity to invest in such privatization exercises, and be seriously considered for the opportunities that we love to bestow on foreigners - yet another clear example of selling our patrimony.
Therefore, when foreign investors come knocking at our doors, an enlightened and progressive government would advise that such investors are expected to either (1) find Bahamian business partners with whom to invest or (2) offer shares in their enterprises to the Bahamian public, or even better, both of the above. Other countries do it. Why shouldn't we?
The time has come for our political leaders to understand that they will be judged not only by the jobs that they create, but now also by the Bahamian owners in our economy who they facilitate. Bahamians are tired of successive governments giving away our land and economic opportunities to foreigners, at our expense. If we do not radically alter our thinking about ownership and greater participation in our economy, we will be thrown back into a new form of slavery, once again being nothing more than servile workers whose patrimony has been pillaged and whose bodies and minds have been enslaved.
Properly formulated and adeptly executed, Christie's legacy could entail an administration whose primary objective is one of Bahamian economic empowerment. It is now time for a reversal of a policy, which for too long has had at its core a subliminal message that we are a nation for sale. It is now time for the establishment of an economic culture that is inclusive and beneficial to all who call The Bahamas home and who wish to build our nation for generations yet unborn.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com
Revealing that the government forewent $683 million in import duty for this fiscal year in the form of concessions and incentives, which it sees as necessary to remain competitive as a destination for investment, Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle said this should generate a $2 billion revenue windfall in return.
Pointing to the "real structural" and profitability challenges which investors in this country face as part of the rationale for the incentivizing concessions, Rolle said that for each dollar of revenue foregone in this manner the government expects to recoup $3.04 in return.
"There is a perception that major developers do not make a significant contribution to The Bahamas economy in exchange for the incentives received. Based on the estimated total value of approved concessions as at May 2013, for every $1 in concessions provided by the government, in 2013 alone these hotels are expected to generate $0.52 in taxes/fees and payments made to government and its corporations, and $0.83 in salaries, wages and employee benefits for 10,000-plus employees, 98 percent of whom are Bahamians. It is also estimated that direct spending in the economy is $0.69.
"The country front-loads a promissory note to an investor for a dollar and we get $2.04 back at a later date. So essentially we get $3 back because we don't come out of pocket.
"Overall, these annual payments represent more than seven percent of GDP (gross domestic product), before the full opening of Baha Mar," he added.
Rolle was addressing Parliament when he made his comments as part of his contribution to the 2014/2015 budget debate.
His comments come as U.S. consultants for the government, Compass Lexecon, disclosed in its study on tax and fiscal reform needs in The Bahamas that this country ranks 92 out of 98 countries when it comes to its tax-to-GDP ration, collecting just 40 percent of its maximum attainable revenue in this regard, in part because of concessions given to investors.
Earlier this week, Guardian Business reported that Oxford Economics, consultants to the Coalition for Responsible Taxation, pointed to a 46 percent "effective collection rate" for import duty in The Bahamas, due to a combination of evasion, concessions and other factors.
Rolle disclosed that approvals for duty-free importation under the Hotels Encouragement Act increased by almost four times this fiscal year, from $138.5 million to $683 million.
Turning to the common refrain that Bahamians do not benefit from concessions as foreign investors do, Rolle said that duty-free concessions under the Hotels Encouragement Act between 2012 and 2014 for new construction, additions and renovations for hotels with Bahamian ownership or part-ownership amounted to $304 million.
The vast majority of these concessions related to Exuma, where $274.5 million in concessions was provided in relation to eight hotel properties.
"Bahamian entrepreneurs are investing in the tourism sector of our economy. Some are in joint-venture partnerships with other Bahamians and others with foreign partners. Island by island Bahamian investors are developing boutique resorts and other tourism and industrial businesses which play an important economic role, particularly in the Family Islands, where the impact of these investments creates multiple jobs and opportunities for Bahamians."
Rolle pointed to an amendment to the Hotels Encouragement Act in 2008 and 2009 - to include entertainment facilities, nightclubs, restaurants and shops in designated areas - as one which has been well-received by Bahamian entrepreneurs in particular.
"They are taking advantage of the import duty concessions to assist in jump-starting their business and help reduce the challenges associated with start-up costs," he said.
Concessions granted to businesses under this amendment total $926,370 for May 2012 to June 2013 and for the following year - July 2013 to May 2014 - the total grew to $6.2 million.
Laying out the rationale for such concessions, Rolle noted the findings of a recent study commissioned by the government on concessions and incentives regionally, which looked at how those offered by The Bahamas compared to regional competitors' regimes to encourage investment.
The study was commissioned as the government considered how it might "rationalize" the incentives and subsidies it currently offers to investors in The Bahamas, and how this might impact investment inflows into the country.
Among the key findings, Rolle suggested, was that most countries have a program of subsidies and incentivizes for investors in place "supporting the basic assumption that it is a requirement to be a globally competitive player".
In addition, hotel profitability in the Caribbean lags that of the United States, while profitability in the Bahamian hotel sector is believed to lag both.
'Real structural factors'
Developments in The Bahamas move ahead in the face of significant "real structural factors", said Rolle, commenting on the findings of the study.
He said: "In addition to demand-side pressures on the top line in the resort sector, the study suggests that several key operational and structural issues confront the sector across The Bahamas, regardless of location or size. They are as follows: the high cost of energy - Bahamas Electricity Corporation's rates are amongst the highest in the region; challenges related to workforce development, driven by a gap in basic, technical and soft skills; productivity continues to be problematic, and concerns around tax reform."
Resorts operating outside New Providence face further challenges including even higher operating costs; limited affordable and available airlift; shortages of skilled labor; more costly marketing and greater infrastructural needs.
"While data on current Bahamian hotel profitability is limited, it is believed to lag both the United States and Caribbean performance due to: higher salaries and in some cases lower employee productivity; higher electricity rates, and higher pilferage and wastage rates.
"It should be noted that industry profitability is measured on a pre-tax basis," he added.
Rolle noted that the study revealed that regional competitors use a wide range of incentives to encourage tourism development. Of the jurisdictions reviewed, the most consistent investment incentive offered, with the exception of Cancun, was the reduction, or abatement, of import tariffs on materials and equipment used in the construction and fit-out of hotels.
Where a number of other countries contrasted with The Bahamas was in the fact that they limited the ability to access these incentives to specific time periods, projects of a certain size, or location.
"A variety of approaches are taken to incentives related to real estate taxes including limiting the exemption to improved value (Barbados) and reducing the stamp duty/transfer tax on property sales (Cayman Islands)," added Rolle.
City of Nassau
The minister said that there was a decline in applications for concessions under the City of Nassau Revitalization Act for the period July 2013 to May 2014, with the total for duty-free concessions for this period standing at $2.2 million.
"The preceding year, May 2012 to June 2013, the total concessions approved totaled $9.96 million. However, I believe the decline in applications is due to an increase in the number of applicants under the Hotels Encouragement (Amendment) Act," said Rolle.
He added: "The Bahamas is one of the many destinations for investments. Even though this is a very emotional topic because of the imbalance between local and foreign investment, the reality remains that foreign direct investment (FDI) is needed for us to survive as a nation.
"Until such time as someone a lot smarter than most of the global population can provide the world with a viable alternative to FDI, we should work towards extracting greater benefits and greater alignment for local investors."
However, Rolle noted that while it is clear that large scale developers make a significant contribution to the economy there is, nevertheless, room to standardize and restrict the concessions granted.