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Residency 'Uncertainty' Turns Developer Off New Projects

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Bahamian developer yesterday warned Immigration-related "uncertainty" is threatening to deter him from initiating further multi-million dollar projects once his current crop is completed.

Jason Kinsale, the developer behind properties such as Balmoral, ONE Cable Beach and Thirty|Six on Paradise Island, told Tribune Business he needed "more certainty" on the permanent residency investment threshold and process.

He added that the nine-12 months being taken to process permanent residency applications was simply "too long" for his potential client base, giving them a negative impression of the Bahamas.

And Mr Kinsale said there had been "rumours" that the Minnis administration was discussing increasing the permanent residency threshold for foreign real estate buyers from $500,000 to a $1 million property investment.

This proposal, originally initiated by the Christie administration's Ministry of Financial Services, appeared to have been shelved following opposition from developers and realtors over the likely negative consequences for the Bahamas and its real estate market.

Should it be revived it will be especially damaging for Mr Kinsale, given that his developments target foreign buyers in the $500,000 to $1 million price range.

Warning that the Bahamas can ill-afford any mistakes given the intensifying global and Caribbean competition to attract foreign real estate purchasers, Mr Kinsale said continued uncertainty would also undermine this nation's ability to grow through "responsible Immigration".

"I think we need to see some certainty around the residency process and improvements there," he told Tribune Business. "Right now, it's taking up to nine months to a year to get permanent residency applications processed, and that's too long.

"For me to invest and do another $40 million project, I need to know people coming here will go back to their friends and say: 'We had a great experience', rather than go back and say: 'We didn't have a great experience; they lost our file. We just need to get better."

Mr Kinsale praised the Minnis administration for recognising that the Bahamas needed to improve its 'ease of doing business' in many areas and on numerous levels.

Yet he added: "Something as silly as getting a basic company open is just exhausting. It's a very tiring process. You 'high five' each other when you open a bank account; it's like you've accomplished a major feat.

"I'm thankful the Government recognises this, but it takes time to get systems in place and turn people out. When people have to do the same thing 10 times, it causes them to give up and not do things. It causes inertia."

Mr Kinsale also expressed concern about sudden government policy changes without warning, recalling how the previous administration's plans to increase the permanent residency threshold to $1 million threatened to destabilise a market accounting for 50 per cent of the Bahamas' real estate sales.

"I heard a rumour they were discussing it again," he told Tribune Business of the threshold. "You just need to know that when you start a project, nothing's going to change. You cannot be going through a $40 million project and, half-way through, find the residency programme has changed."

Both ONE Cable Beach and Thirty|Six, which have total construction costs of $45 million and $25 million, respectively, were endangered by the former Christie administration's proposed policy change while in construction midstream.

Mr Kinsale warned that the ongoing uncertainties threatened to undermine the best method for growing the Bahamian real estate market, which he described as "responsible Immigration".

He added that the Bahamas could not afford to stand still on its residency processes and timelines with Caribbean rivals, and even the US, all targeting wealthy foreign real estate investors as a way to expand their economies.

"It's really a matter now of the Bahamas going through what I call responsible Immigration," the developer told Tribune Business. "It's fairly simple if you break it down.

"If 10 more people live on the island, 10 more people need houses, and 10 more people need lawyers, cars, architects. One of the biggest issues we have is that there are not enough people in the Bahamas. We're not seeing the Immigration we need."

Mr Kinsale said cities such as Miami, Toronto and Vancouver were all enjoying real estate and economic growth via Immigration. Disclosing that Toronto developers had seen a 75 per cent increase in condo sales as a result, he added: "It so shocks me every time I go back to see 40 cranes over multi-storey properties, and there are just two-three projects in the Bahamas and they are still not sold out.

"Same thing in Vancouver; homes sell in one day. I really believe the only way we're going to grow this economy is by having more people buying. The Bahamas does not have a product where people are beating down the door to buy real estate. We like to believe they are, but that's not the case."

Pointing to the increasing ferocity of the Bahamas' competition, Mr Kinsale added: "When I looked at all these programmes for permanent citizenship and residency, I can go and invest in an EP5, put $500,000 in the US and get a 'green card'.

"For us to sit here and think we are better than in the US makes no sense to me. Are we better than New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston? We have a lot of competition.

"There are four to five Caribbean destinations offering passports for $300,000," he continued. "That's why I say we should be doing a better job of generating activity through responsible Immigration. I don't believe in selling passports, but I believe in getting more people, and the right people.

"They don't want jobs. They buy a home, keep to themselves and spend money. That's what we want. When you boil it down, it's fairly straightforward."

Comments

Economist 3 years, 7 months ago

"He added that the nine-12 months being taken to process permanent residency applications was simply "too long" for his potential client base, giving them a negative impression of the Bahamas."

The problem is that we have been taught by the politicians that we can do anything and our sovereignty makes us the best in the world. The markets proves that people have a "negative impression of The Bahamas".

That is why Turks, Cayman and others are well off, with little unemployment, and we are still struggling.

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DDK 3 years, 7 months ago

I agree that we are not seeing the immigration that we NEED. The type of immigration and homeownership to which the article refers require RELIABLE ELECTRICIY and a SENSE OF SECURITY. At the same time we must address the immigration that we DO NOT need that strains our already inadequate resources.

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ohdrap4 3 years, 7 months ago

not to mention that: 1. reliable electricity is not available to the citizens, whomever they are 2. sense of immigration security is not readily available to foreign spouses of bahamians or to the children born of bahamian women married to foreign men. These wait much more that 9-12 months and even have difficulty receiving services that their taxes pay for.

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DDK 3 years, 7 months ago

Understood on the matter of immigration security. I should have been more precise. I was thinking about security in one's home and the high break-in and robbery rate.

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sheeprunner12 3 years, 7 months ago

Do we have a real estate inventory of non-Bahamians who own property in this country including cays, sub-divisions, undeveloped land, long term leases and private properties???? ....... How much of these properties are flipped between foreigners for huge sums daily????? .......... and how many "second home" room units are rented each week in this country (illegally) by foreigners????? ............. The millions of dollars that the Treasury cannot collect

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Economist 3 years, 7 months ago

These properties are not being flipped. To flip it you need a conveyance. The foreigners like to know that the property is theirs.

The reality is that for the last two years foreigners sold out and got out of The Bahamas to go to other destinations in greater numbers than those that came in.

The Central Bank figures prove this as they show that we had a negative $80 million or more out flow or deficit in FDI.

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birdiestrachan 3 years, 7 months ago

Sheep runner I am with you on this one . The Bahamas is a small Country. and there is only so much land. No more land is being made. what about the Bahamians yet unborn. Some folks only care about how much money they will have in their bank accounts. no need to sell ones birth rights for a bowl of porridge. Funny he should mention what Countries we are no better than. Where is he coming from with that.?

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sheeprunner12 3 years, 7 months ago

The Government owns 80% of the physical land and all of the sea bed of this country ......... There is NO land shortage in this country

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Abaconian 3 years, 7 months ago

The gov. may own 80% of the physical land but taken out of context that means nothing. The majority of the prime land on the prime islands is in private hands, primarily the hands of wealthy foreigners. Facts. Nearly all the nice cays with harbours, elevation and vegetation (in Abaco, Bimini and Exuma) are owned by foreigners. So much of the elevated coppice land and coastal land is also privately owned throughout the northern parts of the country. Yeh the gov. has thousands of acres of pine barren on the large islands and land in the southern Bahamas, where there is little rain, little soil and shows no sign of being a place where people want to invest or live.

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TheMadHatter 3 years, 7 months ago

Abaconian - I disagree with the "shows now sign of being a place.." Many Bahamians would love to live in South Eleuthera, or Crooked Island, etc. - BUT cannot afford the land which is currently owned by Her Majesty "The Crown". It's her land. We are independent without land. The Government cannot grant us all tracts of this land because they are NOT ALLOWED to. That is part of the reason why Cabinet discussions are forbidden to be discussed outside of Cabinet. Every incoming member is told about the secret deal made with England to preserve the Crown's ownership of the British Empire. Our Independence is fake, and is only a way of forcing us to pay taxes to the Crown for our own very day to day survival, Slavery is alive and well.

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TalRussell 3 years, 7 months ago

Comrades! If the Red Shirts Regime were to listen to Jason Kinsale - that would solidly why the reds should not be trusted to improve the well-being and interests of the poor and the near poor citizens. Maybe, there should be no more project approvals ahead under the conditions Jason Kinsale thinks are best for the Bahamaland?

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banker 3 years, 7 months ago

As Jason Kinsale is the half-brother of Shame Gibson, it would make interesting reading as how he financed Balmoral and various other projects.

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alfalfa 3 years, 7 months ago

Banker, it is commonly known that Kinsale is fronting for Sebastian Bastian of Island Luck fame. If he and his partner have their way all the land will be bought and sold, so the money can be washed. It's either that for them or put it into BOB. These guys are the biggest real estate developers in the country, and if the Bahamas Real Estate Association were to be honest, they would confirm that. Rather they participate in the laundering process.

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Sickened 3 years, 7 months ago

From what I know, the numbers boys told Jason to take a hike a couple of years ago - when they were made legit and started their own developments. That's why One Cable Beach struggled to come out of the ground. I don't know who is funding Jason now (maybe Shame?).

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 7 months ago

Selling Bahamian citizenship for a measly $500,000 investment in a condo is as about as cheesy as we Bahamians can get. It certainly says we do not have much self-esteem or patriotic standing in our country. I frankly think $5 million may not be enough but it would be a good step in the right direction. We need to start valuing appropriately what's dearest to us most, and what many foreigners want from us more than just about anything else! Bahamians must lift up their heads to see that rising sun!

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OldFort2012 3 years, 7 months ago

There is a huge difference between permanent residence and citizenship. No one in this article talks about citizenship. But let us talk about citizenship: if you invest 500,000 Pounds and live in the UK for 5 years, you are entitled to UK citizenship. I think anyone would agree that by world standards, a UK passport is ever so slightly better than a Bahamian one. So your idea would completely price us out of the market. Always useful to know where other countries are at.

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Abaconian 3 years, 7 months ago

The U.K. is not The Bahamas and you can carry your condescending ass talking about a "UK passport is ever so slightly better than a Bahamian one." How so? It doesn't look that appealing to me in the face of Brexit and the U.K's burdensome tax regime. Perhaps that's why so many Brits would like a Bahamians one?? Furthermore, the Bahamas is a better place to live than the U.K. This is coming from someone who has lived in the U.K and entitled to dual citizenship. I would choose my Bahamian citizenship any day.

Second, as the other person said, residency is different to citizenship. If the primary purpose is tax and lifestyle related there is no need to give away full citizenship if we can offer residency and a tax certificate here. If we start giving anyone with money the same rights as Bahamians this country will soon become overdeveloped and totally controlled by foreigners while the average Bahamians becomes more dependent and has less access to the best parts of the country, something that is already a problem. A whole host of other problems will ensue. Yeh, of course real estate agents and developers would love it. A line needs to be drawn. Foreigners are welcome, but handing out citizenship willy nilly to wealthy foreigners is a short sighted sell out

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OldFort2012 3 years, 7 months ago

I would definitely agree that the UK is not the Bahamas. They have electricity 24/7 there and the dumps don't burn. As for the need for citizenship, you are quite wrong: UK citizen can keep all of their money offshore with no tax liability in the UK whatsoever, as long as they spends less than 60 days in residence in the UK. Therefore the idea that any UK citizen would want or need a Bahamian passport is just a figment of your imagination. There are hundreds of them here, with permanent residence and no citizenship. Brexit has nothing to do with it either: Even afterwards there will be free travel for UK citizens throughout the EU. PS: as to "as the other person said"...that is me. Reread the post. My only point is that no one would pay $5m, as Mudda suggested, for a Bahamian passport. Not unless they are completely illiterate and I don't know too many people with $5m that are.

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Abaconian 3 years, 7 months ago

You are correct - it was you who made the distinction between residency and citizenship. I misread the story somehow and thought Kinsale was advocating for the sale of citizenship in addition to lowering the bar for permanent residency. Yes, I am fully aware of the non-dom status in the UK and how it works, however, you know as well as I do that the situation may be different in 10 years. Many Brits (the Corbynistas etc) would love to see the non-dom laws change and prudent wealthy Brits are aware of that. Any way, my point remains the same. Many people around world would like Bahamian residency/citizenship for tax, financial privacy and lifestyle purposes and I disagree with you that a UK passport is more desirable than a Bahamian one and I do believe the Bahamas to be a better place to live, but that's my personal opinion.

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BahamaPundit 3 years, 7 months ago

This dude has made millions selling the Bahamas to expats. He should be eternally grateful. He should learn how to phrase his words differently.

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Porcupine 3 years, 7 months ago

And then the question is, who will be calling the shots in this country in 20 years? The golden rule applies here.

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OldFort2012 3 years, 7 months ago

And the answer is: the same people who are calling the shots now. The people with CAPITAL.

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Abaconian 3 years, 7 months ago

Much of this debate boils down to the vision one has for the future of this country. If you are like many materialistic, money obsessed real estate agents and large-scale developers that believe it would be great if Nassau was like Miami then of course you might be saying lets hand out citizenship to anyone rich!!! Most of these people have little regard for the environment, preserving Bahamian culture, our national identity, our heritage or the poor/average Bahamian. The problem is, is that many Bahamians have fallen into this kind of mentality themselves - where we would sell every last island in this country to a foreigner in the prospect of a commission.

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TalRussell 3 years, 7 months ago

Comrades! - Growing up in Nassau and on one the Out Islands - one of the most common expressions I heard often was the words 'Thank You My Sweet Jesus.' So. can we hear a hearty 'Thank You My Sweet Jesus' for Comrade Abaconian's post.
Ummm I'd love give Comrade Abaconian.... a really big hug!

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jus2cents 3 years, 7 months ago

Some of what he says is true, immigration department needs a kick up the ass (we all know that!) and the Bahamas needs to compete better for the HNW residents. They have PLENTY options besides the Bahamas.

Also looking at these comments above makes me wonder who exactly is funding Mr. Kinsales projects? And if he's been given the zoning for his next big hotel/ condo project on Goodmans Bay, Cable Beach by the Christie Government or this new government? Because that is very fishy!

And someone please check into Perry Christie's Brother (Re buying permits from Immigration for HNW people) and Son Re selling property, before they try and run off with a cookie jar.

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