By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The government is being urged to eliminate the backlog of permanent residency applications within 30 days as a means to secure “easy money” for the Public Treasury and a multi-million dollar foreign exchange boost.
Jason Kinsale, the Bahamian developer behind projects such as The Balmoral, ONE Cable Beach and Thirty-Six on Paradise Island, told Tribune Business it “makes no sense” why such an immediate fiscal and economic boost was being delayed when this nation needs every investment dollar it can get post-COVID-19.
Pointing out that economic permanent residency fees are worth $15,000 per person, he said it was vital The Bahamas eliminate all the red tape confronting legitimate investors - especially the need for Cabinet to approve those already vetted and who have “ticked all the boxes”.
Mr Kinsale said such bureaucracy was already costing The Bahamas, citing the example of two foreign friends who had wanted to establish a business in this country and employ Bahamians. He disclosed that they packed up in frustration over the nine-month wait for their business licence and residency with the right to work permits and headed for the Cayman Islands, where they received the necessary approvals in five days.
Arguing that The Bahamas must “make it easier for people to come here”, and create the critical mass essential to generating higher economic growth levels, Mr Kinsale said the country needed to “park its pride and open up” to bona fide businessmen and investors.
Suggesting that COVID-19’s economic fall-out is a wake-up call that should ensure The Bahamas sheds its “complacency”, he added that the country needed to “stop thinking we’re so special” and realise that competition for foreign direct investment (FDI) and business generally is only becoming more intense.
And, in the pandemic’s wake, Mr Kinsale also called on The Bahamas to reconsider an Investor Citizenship initiative previously called for by the likes of Sean McWeeney QC, the Graham Thompson & Company attorney and partner, as a way to attract high-end billionaires to domicile in this nation and potentially set-up business ventures employing hundreds of Bahamians.
Identifying economic permanent residency as a low-hanging target that The Bahamas can use to immediately boost the economy, foreign reserves and the Government’s finances, the developer told Tribune Business: “The thing I’d like to see them eliminate is Cabinet-level approval for permanent residency.
“To me, that’s completely ridiculous. Why do we have persons who have already been approved, tick all the boxes, and they are waiting years for their permanent residency to come through? Why do we need Cabinet approval for someone to obtain permanent residency when they’ve ticked all the boxes? It makes no sense to me. It has to go. It’s one of the most archaic processes I know.
“If you’re looking for quick revenue sources, that’s millions of dollars there waiting to be processed. It’s $15,000 a person. I know there’s dozens, if not hundreds, waiting and people are very frustrated. If we can make it easy, the word spreads and people start coming to The Bahamas if it takes a month or two. But if it takes a year, say, they will go to the Cayman Islands,” Mr Kinsale added.
“I would have all those applications processed over the next 30 days and get this done. It’s easy money for the Government. It makes no sense to me why it’s being held up. I keep having calls from people who have purchased real estate from me above the $750,000 permanent residency threshold, saying: ‘Jason, where’s my permanent residency?’ I have to make excuses every time they call. It’s unnecessary stress.
“What else are we going to do to get money in quickly? I’m not an economist; I don’t pretend to be. I understand real estate and what people want, and sometimes you have to give them what they want. I don’t understand why it’s so hard. It drives me insane. It’s going beyond the frustration to insane, to anger. People are becoming angry, and when that happens they leave and invest in other places. We have to hang on to the people we have in the business community and hang on to their confidence.”
Mr Kinsale revealed many successful real estate developers were “going the wrong way”, and investing in smaller projects rather than doing bigger developments, because there was “not enough demand” due to the limited size of the Bahamian market and the red tape/bureaucracy confronting foreign purchasers.
“We’ve got a lot of amazing projects,” he told this newspaper, “but they take 10 years to sell out. In Toronto, a 200-300 unit development sells in a weekend. That’s due to immigration. We don’t have enough people moving to The Bahamas and we’re struggling.
“I had two friends looking to get permanent residency with the right to work in a business they wanted to set up. To get that and their Business Licence took nine months and they gave up. They went to Cayman and got it in five days of submitting their proposal. They’ve left, and they would have been spending millions of dollars here.”
Emphasising that he and other developers were not seeking tax breaks of further concessions from the Government, Mr Kinsale said it simply needed to assist with “creating real demand” for The Bahamas among investors and real estate buyers.
“We have to park our pride and open up this country. It’s the only way we’ll see this country grow,” he told Tribune Business. “We have to create demand and stop thinking we’re so special. We think The Bahamas is the best place in the world, but we have competition worldwide.
“We have to stop thinking we’re any different. We can’t do it. Enough is enough now. It’s done, complacency and hoping for the best. It’s over. We all know it’s over now. It’s time to take real action and bold initiatives. This is the time to do that.”