Friday, September 29, 2023
By Fay Simmons
Tribune Business Reporter
Resolving land issues in the Family Islands is a key component of the National Development Plan, one of its key architects said.
Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle, now executive director at the Lyford Cay Foundation, told the Nassau Conference that many Family Islands residents live on generational property without proper land title. This renders them unable to receive financing from lenders such as commercial banks.
Asserting that solving land administration issues involving generational property will allow development to flourish throughout the country, Dr Virgill-Rolle said: “The overall National Development Plan included voices from across the islands. For example, in many of the Family Islands, generation property and land administration was something that was critical.
“You wonder why you weren't seeing development, but if you don't have proper title, proper ownership, things like that, you can't really develop. You can't get loans, you can't have mortgages, and so you're not going to see development in certain areas.
“Similarly, for New Providence, an issue of land title became very important to the work that we were doing, so that was an issue that emerged that had to be a part of the section on infrastructure. We had to look at land administration, land titling, generation property - all of those types of issues if you were to truly see development occur in The Bahamas.”
Dr Virgill-Rolle said the gaps in available human capital and specialised skills was also explored to ensure The Bahamas is able to "absorb" the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) being attracted to this nation and capitalise upon this growth.
She said: “We looked at how we attract foreign direct investment, and really being purposeful about that to ensure that we attract things that contribute to the positivity and growth of productivity. But you also have to think about where we were in terms of being able to absorb that FDI, in terms of total absorptive capacity, the human capital necessary to absorb that.
“And then also looking at competitiveness generally, and making sure that we were doing the things that needed to be done. Looking at the skills.... what are the skill gaps in this country, and how do we make sure that we actually train towards that.”
Dr Virgill-Rolle explained that the National Development Plan also considered the balance of innovation in the country’s financial services sector when set against the regulation necessary to ensure proper monitoring and enforcement. She added that Immigration issues, such as inter-company transfers and staff relocation, were also explored to ensure that Bahamian talent can train abroad and foreigners can gain work experience in The Bahamas.
She said: “Looking at immigration and basic things surrounding our work, surrounding business travel, relocation of staff and family, entrepreneur class programme, inter-company transfers. That was seen as important to go both ways so that you can build those experiences in the sector and local staff will go on to the training in other areas, and staff abroad will come here as well.
“There was an emphasis on legal skills training as well, looking at the factors that made The Bahamas a desirable place to be located. Looking at innovation-friendly policy, but yet it has to be a prudent regulatory approach and levels of representation on the relevant international committees.
“And really looking at products. So what were the products that were to deepen the sector, and how do we ensure that as an environment that would allow innovation in the creation of products."