Real estate developers in the Bahamas are against a plan to double the investment threshold for the country’s investor residence visa.
The Bahamian government wants to increase the required investment from $500,000 to $1 million as of March 1, but developers say they have not been given enough warning regarding the move.
Funds from the program have been used to build a series of luxury hotels and residencies in the Bahamas, as high net worth individuals look for permanent residency in exchange for cash investments.
One developer said the plan would send alarm bells through the real estate and financial services industry in the Bahamas.
Benefits of Bahamian Residency
- Right to reside in the Bahamas without further renewal of permits.
- Right to enjoy all privileges enjoyed by citizens of Bahamas except for the right to vote.
- Right to purchase property in Bahamas.
- Liberal tax regime.
- Easy travel to Commonwealth nations, members of the Caribbean community and the members of the Organization of American States.
- Eligible to apply for citizenship after fulfilling residence requirements.
The move could only have a negative impact on projects already underway, and those planned for the future, the developer said.
If implemented, the developer expected to lose investors immediately because of the move.
Particular questions were raised over those real estate investments already agreed but not completed.
Several stakeholders are of the opinion that doubling the threshold would cost the Bahamas significantly in terms of investment and business.
One went so far as to suggest that the program accounts for 50 per cent of real estate business in the country.
Another said the increase in investment threshold would have a negative impact on 60 per cent of active projects.
Although there has been no official confirmation from the government regarding the plan, just the uncertainty regarding the potential policy shift could have a destabilising effect.
Stakeholders called for the launching of a consultation period for everyone to have their say on the proposed change.
They also called for any changes to be made in a staged and careful way, to allow the industry to adjust.
The proposed change does not have unanimous cabinet support in the Bahamian government.
With the internal property market flat in the Bahamas, the economy relies on the second home market to generate sales, the bulk of which is funded by the investment immigration program.
Any move to increase the investment threshold could push buyers to use one of the significant number of other programs that exist around the world.
Such an impact could have a trickle down negative effect on the whole Bahamas economy,