The Counsellors Limited (TCL) held their fifteenth annual Abaco Business Outlook on September 20 at the Abaco Beach Resort Pavilion under the theme “Creating a World-Class Abaco” with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Michael Pintard as the Keynote Speaker.
Central and South Abaco Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary James Albury opened the meeting and introduced the keynote speaker.
Mr. Albury touted the sustainability and resilience of the Abaco economy noting the strength of the economy coming from tourism and the part played by the second home owner rental market.
He added that the peripheral economy – those businesses supported by or supporting the primary economic drivers – are substantial in their own right; like construction, property management, financial services, restaurants and marinas, boat rentals, fly and sport fishing, boutique hotels, charter boats, legal counsels and real estate, farming and artisanal products and more.
Mr. Albury said that Abaco’s economy has grown faster than the infrastructures ability to keep up, adding that physical infrastructure (roads especially) have been a challenge to all governments.
He noted though, that while the service is still needing improvement, Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) improved stability over the busy season was commendable.
Mr. Albury also noted that public services are also in need of additional resources in order to become more effective.
Keynote speaker, Mr. Pintard, spoke at length about promoting agriculture not only for the sake of being able to feed ourselves, but as a niche tourism market.
He told the audience that Abaco leads in four agriculture categories, including poultry, in the country and yet we still bring in most of our supplies from the United States.
He added that additional training and resources need to be invested in to continue and better agriculture and fisheries and related services.
Following Mr. Pintard, the Abaco Chamber of Commerce President, Ken Hutton spoke on the challenges and potential solutions to the economic outlook of Abaco.
In his laundry list of issues facing businesses in Abaco Mr. Hutton noted BPL (though recently better), Road Traffic Department issues with driver’s license and license plates, inadequacies at the New Medical Centre and Airport, lack of road signage, rental housing, impacts of real property tax debacle and shrink facilitation of banking among other issues.
Mr. Hutton spoke about the cost of doing business being very high in Abaco with the cost of energy five times more expensive than Florida, the expense of fuel, and expensive shipping along with the impacts of unlicensed businesses.
He said diversification is needed for Abaco’s future as the island is dependent on tourism.
New National Insurance Board (NIB) Director, Dr. Nicola Virgil-Rolle spoke about the progress of creating a better NIB and the organizational adjustments being made.
Kevin Seymour, business consultant, spoke on the pros and cons of The Bahamas’ ascension to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of 2019. He noted that The Bahamas is the only country in the Western Hemisphere not a member of the WTO.
He emphasized that the Bahamas has no bi-lateral agreement with the USA with our trade being based on the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) which can be changed at any time at the US Government’s discretion.
He urged the audience to understand that it is not if, but when, The Bahamas joins the WTO and that persons need to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities rather than be afraid of what could possibly happen with trade liberalization.
Samantha Williams and Alistair Chisnall from Graham Thompson and Co. spoke on land registry issues. Ms. Williams spoke specifically to the need for land registry laws as she noted that land is an asset to both individuals and the country.
Mr. Chisnal spoke on the state of real estate business in The Bahamas, and the things impacting it such as lack of available financing and VAT slowing the low-end sales, but the Family Island Development Act being extended for Abaco is a good incentive for new home builders, as well as a number of exemptions which Bahamians can apply for.
Karlos Mackey, Principal, Prime Finance and Consulting and President of MoneyMaxx Co. Ltd., spoke about Abaco leveraging its proximity and developing an identity to corner niche markets (like retirement home market) and using out-of-the-box thinking on our relationship to Grand Bahama and with the people who live here both native and migrant.
Patrice Rolle, Senior Account Executive at Sunshine Insurance spoke on business’s need to stay competitive through leveraging technology to stay ahead in an ever-changing world.
Donovan Ingraham, Corporate Wellness Coordinator at Atlantic Medical Insurance tackled the importance of wellness strategies in a National Health Program, giving dietary advice to raise awareness for the need of a healthier Bahamas.
The Abaco Business Outlook also featured an Ease of Doing Business Workshop at the conclusion of the seminar with representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Department of Information Technology, Department of Inland Revenue and the Office of The Prime Minister all on hand to answer questions and to help people to be familiar with the government’s new ease of doing business initiative.