By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE government is considering further reductions on customs duty rates in the upcoming months in a bid to counteract the cost increases due to the implementation of value added tax.
Prime Minister Perry Christie pledged that reductions would be phased to ensure that prices “balanced out” as he spoke to the medical community at the launch of the national stem cell
industry on Wednesday night.
“We’re working on the predicate that our economy will be able to make it happen,” he said. “I thought I would have demonstrated already to the business persons out there on the question of VAT.
“They knew and I knew if we do not put a taxation in place the country would be downgraded and we would be in the same kind of position some of our sister countries are in.”
Mr Christie added: “But I said what I would do is make it easy, 7.5 per cent, and I will reduce duties on 100 items and between now and February. I may do more, and between February and June more still, to the point where prices are balanced out.
“But we do it in consult with the business community. We don’t do it as an imposition on them. We are prepared, with the medical fraternity, to work out what is best for the country with you as major participants (in the stem cell industry).”
At that event, Mr Christie encouraged medical workers to aggressively pursue opportunities for Bahamian professionals to play key ownership roles in the establishment of the new regime.
He added that the government was still on track to introduce universal health care in 2016.
The Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill was passed in Parliament in 2013, with accompanying regulations passed in September last year. The legislation provides a regulatory regime covering all aspects of stem cell research, namely clinical research, non-clinical research and therapeutic uses and prohibits procedures that are unethical or without scientific foundation. Facilities or laboratories used for stem cell research or therapy must obtain a license under the Hospital and Health Care Facility Act.
The regulations deal specifically with the creation of three key committees, namely the National Stem Cell Ethics Committee, the Scientific Committee and the Compliance Committee. These will oversee and monitor the stem cell industry in the Bahamas.