The Fourth Hammer Blow

First Published: 2001-09-26

The Punch Editorial of September 17th described the three hammer blows to the Bahamian economy –

1) The drop in tourist revenues caused by the U.S. recession and the World Trade Center bombing

2) The Government's response to the OECD money laundering and unfair tax competition attacks, the "Eleven Bills of Christmas", that badly damaged the financial services sector, and

3) The failure to act on the Ministry of Works Straw Market Fire Fighting Report.

However, the Editor failed to mention the Fourth Hammer Blow, The Employment Act that was passed on September 10th by Parliament, the two bills that Government intends to table soon and the two waiting in the wings. The International Monetary Fund in its 1999 and 2001 Consultations observed that hotel operating costs in the Bahamas were "among the highest in the region and there was a need to remain competitive"; and, referring to the five labour bills circulated in 2000, it warned against increasing labour costs. The IMF stated that the Government argued that the Bills "would lead to some increase in labor costs, but thought that the impact would be small"; but they, the IMF, could not verify this claim. To resolve this factual problem the Bahamas Employers Confederation did a business survey on the expected cost increases. In negotiations between the Coalition of Employers and the Government, the latter would not jointly review the BECon Survey results. In addition, the Minister of Labour in his comments to Parliament did not discuss the IMF warning, Government data supporting its statement to the IMF or the BECon survey.

The Minister of Labour did state that the Employment Act had the "support of the business community". This is not correct. At the very beginning of its last conference the Employers clearly stated their strong advice to defer consideration of the bill. The above suggests that Minister of Labour should comment further and the Punch should revise its list of Hammer Blows. The Institute for Economic Freedom September 20, 2001

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