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20The Bahamas Investorservices, agriculture, assembly services,high-tech services, ship repair, lightmanufacturing and other services.Q:What has been thegrowth rate in FDI overthe last five years? What isthe current level?A:The BIA relies on statistics from theCentral Bank. It is difficult to getaccurate data. Many people may start aninvestment, but not put all of what theysaid they would invest into the ground. In2005, for example our records reflected$2.2-billion worth of investment wasapproved, but we know we did not havethat amount of FDI. That year's figureprobably includes the approval of theBaha Mar [Cable Beach mega-resort]development. In 2006, the approved FDI figure was$3.8 billion. It jumped again in 2007 to$7.1 billion. But sometimes projects arerevised, so a project may be reflected inthe data twice. In 2008, given the global economicenvironment, we had a decline, with the[approved] figure that year being $1.2billion. In 2009, it dipped to $928million. However, in 2010, it was backon the rise at $1.2 billion. I suspect thatthis increase is going to continue. Thereis definitely an increased level of interestin doing business in this country.Q:Why do you think that is?A:During the recession, the governmenttook the decision to use its resources tocarry out infrastructural developments. Itinvested in the redevelopment of theLynden Pindling International Airportand the new straw market [in downtownNassau]. It started road improvementprojects and completed the dredging ofthe harbour. This improved ourattractiveness to potential investors. Westarted a new promotional campaignbased around these improvements.The Baha Mar project is anotherdraw. There are so many additional spin-offs that can come from having such ahuge development, as Atlantis hasshown. Once the resort is open,hopefully it will attract huge numbers ofnew visitors to The Bahamas. Q:How many projectproposals does theBIA receive annually?What's the turnaround time?A:In a low period we receive around100 proposals on an annual basis. Theturnaround time varies. For FamilyIsland projects we always consult thedistrict council. It is important to knowif the community wants the project.Sometimes we can turn around aproject within 45 days. Other times itmay take as long as two to threemonths, depending on the complexityof the project and the number ofagencies that may need to be consulted.If there's a straight forward matter thatdoesn't require any consultation, we canturn it around in 30 days.Q:Once the governmentreceives a proposal,what happens next?A:The BIA seeks to understand whatthe investor wants to do in The Bahamasand facilitates getting what they wantaccomplished. Proposals are forwarded tothe NEC for a decision. Once a decisionis made, the BIA's real job starts, whichis seeing those approved projects govertical. We coordinate with all of theother government agencies. We act as afilter, a liaison and a troubleshooter. Ourgoal at the end of the day is to seeprojects go vertical. When projectssucceed, Bahamians get employed. Theeconomy moves and grows.We not only serve as theadministrative arm of the NEC, butalso facilitate and help with theimplementation of investment projects.The government has a compendium ofinvestment incentives legislation and weadminister quite a bit of that legislation.Persons who are looking to develop ahotel or a hotel-related activity, forexample, can receive concessionsincluding customs duty exemptions orreal property tax exemptions for aparticular period of time under theHotels Encouragement Act. Similarly, we have a unit that dealswith encouraging industries and lightmanufacturing. Under the IndustriesEncouragement Act concessions includecustoms duty exemptions and realproperty tax exemptions. There is alsoThe City of Nassau Revitalization Act,which offers concessions.The BIA is the government's agencyto award available concessions. Weprocess the applications. We put out thepublic notices. We advise customs. Weconclude the agreements, which are legaldocuments between the government anddevelopers, as it relates to what they aregoing to do first and what they are goingto receive from the government inreturn. Administering concessionarylegislation is another big part of our job.The International Persons LandholdingAct generates a large portion of our work.It is pursuant to this piece of legislation"There is definitely an increased level ofinterest in doing business in this country."BARBARA CHRISTOFILIS/©DUPUCHINVESTING