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Our Partial Welcome To Foreigners

Last week, the Ministry of Tourism proudly revealed the heavily financed “Behold” campaign in New York City’s Rockefeller subway station.  It is good that the collective islands of The Bahamas are being represented in our tourism promotions.  It is a shame that such a decidedly spectacular campaign confronts the negative anti-foreign sentiments expressed by the Department of Immigration.

Our thirst for tourism dollars drives national development despite the so-called lack of a national development plan.  And when it comes to foreigners, our policies are often contradictory.

We enact legislation to promote investment specific to the tourism trade – the Hotels Encourage Act being one such act.  We accelerate residency applications to foreign homeowners with home evaluations in excess of $1.5 million.  We give away Crown land at the lease of $1 for hundreds of acres for the sake of developing tourism.  We entice foreigners to “Behold” The Bahamas, to come and succumb to its beauty.

While we have these policies that attract, we have others that repel.  We are now saying do not seek foreign labor to maintain your $1.5 million home – even if Bahamians are no longer interested in these jobs.  And please do not think about establishing an offshore company here with any foreign employees.  We lure tourists here to discover and share in the enjoyment of our natural beauty only to drive them away when they want more.

Tourism is immensely important to The Bahamas; its contributions to the economy do not go unnoticed.  The Family Islands are desperate for increased visibility to drive revitalization.  We applaud the Ministry of Tourism’s campaign.  But we are mystified by the government’s rationalization to spend millions of dollars to attract foreign tourists when its new more exclusionist immigration policies demonstrate it resents them.

The onslaught of negative publicity towards foreigners generated by the Department of Immigration is not good for the Bahamian economy.  Capital likes to flow where it is allowed to operate businesses reasonably with the professionals it needs.  When there is a genuine labor shortage in certain areas, those people must be found out of the jurisdiction if the business is to proceed.  Businesses could close if they are not allowed to hire the skilled people needed.

We need the tourist.  And in areas where there is a genuine labor shortage and Bahamians are not available, we need the foreign worker.  We should not automatically think of all foreign workers as enemies of the state.  A foreigner living and working in The Bahamas must buy food from the local supermarket, home supplies from local dry goods stores, he or she engages the services of a local mechanic or plumber or carpenter, establishes local banking, while also paying duty on goods entering the country.

This government must present a cohesive strategy on immigration and foreign direct investment that marries the “love” we show to potential visitors when we ask them to visit our shores.  The Bahamas simply cannot afford lavish yet stunning advertising campaigns to lure unsuspecting visitors to islands where the government provokes anti-foreign sentiment.

Editorial from The Nassau Guardian
Nassau, Bahamas
April 24, 2013

Posted in Opinions

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