Prime Minister Perry Christie at a recent press conference to discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie last night described the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew as “utterly devastating” as he estimated the total cost of repairs to be three or four times higher than the $100m in damages left by Hurricane Joaquin last year.
At a press conference at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Christie said the infrastructure in North Andros, Grand Bahama and New Providence were “relatively intact,” however he said there was “enormous loss” of personal items and scores of homes were “substantially damaged” by flooding.
Because of this, Mr Christie said the government has issued an exigency order, effective on Tuesday, to allow for specific tax exemptions on goods imported for rebuilding purposes as well as water, tarp, and some “personal items”.
The prime minister also said that given the economic cost of this disaster, which came a year after Hurricane Joaquin devastated the southern islands, the government is exploring the option of issuing a hurricane recovery and reconstruction bond.
The purpose of the bond, according to Mr Christie, is “to have an accelerated reconstruction programme, provide assistance to individuals impacted by the hurricane and to provide assistance to small and medium sized businesses.”
“Let me tell you how serious our challenges are, we estimated after Hurricane Joaquin that the cost was over $100m,” Mr Christie said.
“You can identify or multiply, two times, three times, four times - this cost is going to be very much more than Joaquin. Enormous damage has been inflicted on thousands of Bahamians, who were not so affected in such number with Hurricane Joaquin,” Mr Christie said.
The prime minister also pointed out that only NEMA-approved donations will be allowed the “benefit” of being brought into the country, “duty free, VAT free and with no processing fee”.
“We recognise that some people may claim that they have spent money that could be covered by the order before the order is promulgated on Tuesday,” Mr Christie added.
“So the Ministry of Finance, we have agreed to cover the period between the commencement of hurricane conditions and Tuesday when the exigency order will take effect upon proof and certification that it conforms with the requirement.
“The clearance of all relief supplies should be accompanied by a C-13 Home Consumption Form, in addition all goods should be properly manifested. Supplies assigned to NEMA would be granted duty and vat free privilege. In addition, no processing fee would be assessed for these goods.
Emergency supplies such as water, tarp, generators, personal building supplies not assigned to NEMA or a recognised charity should be released upon confirmation from NEMA,
therefore any unauthorised purchase or importation must ultimately be approved by NEMA if you are going to access the privileges offered by the Ministry of Finance.”
Mr Christie also said the government has agreed, with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, to provide tax rebates for donations from the private sector from businesses who donate to either the Bahamas Government Donation Account, the Rebuild Bahamas Account or “any other government approved relief fund.”
Any donation of $1,000 or more shall receive a tax rebate on business license fees equivalent to 10 per cent for the amount donated up to a maximum of $100,000, Mr Christie said.
For more information, residents are asked to contact the Department of Customs emergency numbers at 377-7027 or 377-7030 In New Providence or the local Customs office in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.