Bahamas: Country and Foreign Investment
In terms of business and communications infrastructure, the Bahamas are very well-developed. The business environment is particularly well-attuned to the finance sector as a result of the Bahamas' long-term policy of promoting itself as an international finance centre, accompanied by a well-developed regulatory structure; as the economy depends heavily on the offshore financial sector, the government tries hard to avoid use of the island for money laundering. An Economic Impact Assessment of the financial services industry commissioned by the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) found that the industry contributes about 20% to the Bahamian economy.
There is a wide range of professional services in the Bahamas, particularly for the insurance, trust management and mutual fund sectors. The Government has understood the importance of e-commerce for the future of international business and is making a determined attempt to become a centre of e-commerce development.
There is relatively little Government involvement in business in the Bahamas, particularly for offshore businesses. Onshore business activity requires a license under the Business Licenses Act 2010 (USD100 payable on registration).
There are detailed lists of those business activities for which the Government will, or will not, normally issue a license. The rules governing foreign investment (particularly the availability of incentives, for which see below) are complicated, and expert guidance is necessary. Some of the more important types of enterprise reserved for Bahamians are:
- Small-scale wholesaling and retailing
- Small-scale construction
- Newspaper and magazine publication
- Operation of small hotels
- Real estate agencies
Larger-scale activities are often allowed only on a shared-equity basis, including local manufacturing, transportation and farming.