Beckles: More focus should be placed on growing the economy

Jeffrey Beckles, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers' Confederation.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While many have expressed concern about The Bahamas joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), president of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, Jeffrey Beckles, believes that if more focus is placed on growing the economy, joining the WTO will become less of an issue.

As it now stands, Beckles said access to capital is an inhibitor and there is also a skills gap in the country’s educational system.

“We’re not producing the kind of work-ready individuals for the workplace,” said Beckles, whose comments came Tuesday as the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce hosted a trade mission with the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Beckles also pointed out that The Bahamas has an energy issue, which has been an inhibitor to investors, [as well as] the high cost of energy.

“We also know that we are a high-priced labour market versus the productivity that we get.

And so, those are some of the things that we need to address [before joining the WTO],”  Beckles said.

“We also need to get our borrowing down. We have a high debt ratio in The Bahamas. We need to get that under control. So, whether or not we join the WTO, those issues still exist and will continue to exist.”

Beckles said the only way to cope with the evolving market is through education, exposure and digital literacy.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization outlined on its website that WTO members welcomed The Bahamas’ commitment to make rapid progress with its WTO accession process.

The WTO said at the fourth meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of The Bahamas, held on 5 April, 2019, members expressed their full support to the government of The Bahamas’ ambition to secure WTO membership by the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Astana in June 2020.

The WTO said Brent Symonette, Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry, and Immigration, who led The Bahamas’ delegation at the April 5 meeting said, “We seek to join the WTO because we believe that participating in the rules-based global trading system makes sense for our economy,” the WTO reported on its website.

“Participation affirms the importance of that system to the stability and growth of the world economy.

“We also, however, seek to ensure that our membership provides continuing opportunities for our people to grow and prosper through meaningful participation in the ownership and prosperity of their economy.

“About these dual interests we are very deliberate.”