NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas must pass and enforce ‘genuine’ competition laws, according to the country’s chief World Trade Organization negotiator.
Zhivargo Laing, a former State Minister for Finance, said 80 percent of the Bahamian economy is open to foreign competition.
He spoke during an Inter-American Development Bank Economic Knowledge event on “Enhancing Private Sector Competitiveness for The Bahamas”.
Laing said: “I believe the Bahamas has to pass and enforce genuine conception laws in the country. It is my great suspicion that The Bahamas is a place where there are a number of anti-competitive practices taking . On the extreme end I think there is collusion taking place among entities. On yet another Level I believe there is a kind of insidious dominant player practices.”
“There are some businesses that are protected from competition. There are some players in The Bahamas that do not have to compete against international players but I as an economist have to compete against international players. The Chamber of Commerce’s study on WTO was done by foreign economists.
Laing continued: “That could not have happened if it was the legal or real estate fraternity. Bahamian restaurants have to compete with foreign restaurants. Eighty per cent of the Bahaman economy is open to foreign competition.
“It’s just a select few that don’t have to compete and if you look at those areas where there is no competition they represent some of the sectors with the least degree of innovation, modernization and international competitiveness. I believe that we have circumstances in which wholesalers are retailing to the detriment of retailers.”
He said: “We have any number of practices that need to be established in law as wrong and then need to be enforced against so as to mitigate anti-competitive practices in the country.”
Laing noted the private sector has a role to play in increasing competitiveness in the country.
“We also have to do something by way of the private sector in increasing investment in human resources. I think there are far too many players in the private sector who are hoarding their profits to the detriment of increased skill development, training and even profit sharing for their workers. That goes against competitiveness because it diminishes morale, skillfulness and productivity,” he said.
Laing also opined on the country’s system of taxation.
“The current at system is not a problem so much for businesses as it is for consumers because it is a regressive tax system that punishes consumers especially those at the lower economic levels,” he added.
“We don’t have corporate or capital gains tax and so there are many advantages corporations have in The Bahamas. I do believe our tax system needs to be reformed.”