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Rolle concedes work permit policy will scare investors

Investments minister expects fallout from work permit policy
Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: May 01, 2013

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Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle said yesterday the government’s work permit policy will scare away foreign investors, but suggested that the government will have to deal with the fallout the best way it can.

Rolle was adamant that Bahamians should get first pick of available jobs but conceded that the economy needs foreign investment and foreign labor.

When asked if he thinks the policy would scare away investors, Rolle said, “It certainly will.

“That’s the reality of it.  We just have to manage it the best way we can. I want to ensure that Bahamians have the first right for every opportunity that becomes available in this country.”

He also said, “We have higher unemployment in this country and I firmly believe that any job that is available should go to a Bahamian first.

“But in a case where there are no Bahamians available for that, we should allow work permits to be issued; that’s just a fact of where we exist.

“It’s an emotional topic but the reality is The Bahamas can not exist without foreign direct investment and within foreign direct investment there is sometimes a need for us to use expatriate workers; that’s how we were built.

“So I can’t run away from that fact.  If somebody can show me how to run away from that and still maintain a level of reality then I’ll certainly do it.”

In March, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell announced that the government plans to cease issuing work permits for maids, housekeepers and laborers within a year.

The government has also promised stricter policies for work permit approvals in other employment areas.

Earlier this month, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson said his ministry has tightened policies for granting labor certificates to foreign workers and has put mechanisms in place to ensure employers have identified suitable Bahamian understudies for these positions.

President and Managing Director at Atlantis George Markantonis later said officials at the hotel are “very concerned” by the impending policy change.

He said the current foreign staff complement at the hotel is “critical” to Paradise Island’s success.

Last week, the president of Overseas Filipino Workers International Bahamas (OFWIB) Dr. Leo Ignacio said his members are “alarmed” over the government’s new work permit policy and want clear  guidelines on how the new rules will be implemented.

Ignacio, who represents more than 200 active members, made an impassioned plea on behalf of the more than 1,000 Filipinos who live and work in The Bahamas.

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