ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel yesterday said for every foreigner given a work permit under the Commercial Enterprises Bill, a Bahamian must be trained for that position within a year.
Appearing as a guest on ‘The Revolution’ with Juan McCartney, Mr Bethel said despite the “noise in the market” the CEB will guarantee jobs for Bahamians.
The bill 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 specified number of work permits for executives, managers and people with “specialised knowledge”.
“A Commercial Enterprise Facilitation Unit is mandated to be established within the Investment Board to make sure applications are addressed in a timely manner,” Mr Bethel said yesterday. “It is absolutely required that every application for a commercial enterprise certificate has to be accompanied by a business plan which indicates specifically, meaning name and position, of its staffing needs, inclusive of the number of work permits that are needed.
“So as such, training and building opportunities may be agreed to be afforded to Bahamians in respect to that position staffed by work permit holders. So, it does guarantee Bahamians jobs in respect to positions, staff, by work permit holders. That means for every work permit holder, you have to have at least one Bahamian in training for that position. The jobs for Bahamians must be in respect of positions staffed by work permit holders. The agreement follows the intention of the law that Bahamians be trained in those positions being staffed initially by work permit holders.... They have one year. The commercial enterprise certificate is for one year and if at the end of the year, they have not complied with the contract, (the) certificate will be revoked.”
On Monday, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham criticised the controversial bill, saying the Minnis administration should “rethink the bill and make necessary adjustments.”
His criticism during a rare interview with The Tribune came less than a week after the bill passed the House of Assembly with the unanimous support of Free National Movement parliamentarians.
Almost none of the bill’s key provisions were spared Mr Ingraham’s harsh assessment. The bill’s $250,000 threshold “is too low,” he said.
The bill’s lack of guarantee that a certain number or percentage of Bahamians be employed as a tradeoff for work permits is, he said, something he could not support.
The Progressive Liberal Party has also pledged to repeal the CEB when the party returns to power and warned investors and people who may accept the bill’s benefits to “think carefully” before doing so.