Empowerment zone could also help Family Islands

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.


Deputy Chief Reporter


THE government wants the Economic Empowerment Zone Act's provisions to surpass the confines of New Providence and aid the advancement of Family Island economies where there is an urgent need for support.

However, it is unclear how the new law, which was passed in the Senate yesterday, will work along with the Family Islands Development Encouragement Act.

According to Attorney General Carl Bethel in the Senate yesterday, ahead of the legislation's debate in both lower and upper chambers of Parliament, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis began work on the Crown land registry.

A proper registry will greatly support the success of this law, Mr Bethel said, adding it was an expression of confidence in Bahamians.

"This is a bill that applies throughout The Bahamas and the prime minister has already, you notice he's been making a lot of Family Island trips," he said yesterday during debate on the legislation in the Senate. "He'll say he going down there to talk about VAT or he's going to talk about this that and the other, he's also going to do something very important.

"He takes with him usually Crown land officers to identify tracts of Crown land that are available and suitable for residential development. So, he has got an inventory of available tracts and allotments of Crown land from one end of this country to the next.

"It would be Crown lands that generally abuts or affronts on the Queen's Highway or the main road. Crown lands that are next to existing traditional settlement areas where you can have natural growth and expansion of home owning of Bahamians at minimal infrastructural costs. He has an inventory of that and he's adding to it every single time he visits a Family Island."

Mr Bethel continued: "Because the intention is that going forward over the coming year and years remaining in this term in office - this, the prime minister's first term in office, that we confidently hope and expect will be extended by the grace of God and the Bahamians people in due course - that over this term what will happen is that certain tracts will be surveyed off and allotments crafted and marked out and surveyed.

"The government will then come in and put in the essential infrastructure, a roadway making sure that water lines and electricity poles are in place and similarly these areas will be declared to be economic empowerment zones, which will then allow persons to utilise the law that we've crafted to build in government approved subdivisions their own dwelling homes and so we will see the orderly expansion of housing opportunities to thousands of Family Island residents throughout the length and breadth of this country so that the same opportunities will be afforded for the purchase of what we call serviced lots at below cost. "The only cost being the cost of infrastructural improvement will be extended to them and they will have customs duty exemptions on all of the building supplies.

"But once an economic zone is declared, it will also facilitate businesses by Family Island residents to be established and to have all of the exemptions that are set out in this bill."

Mr Bethel said Crown land also will be approved to established businesses. He said he told senators this was the first government in history to make law provisions to benefit the average Bahamian.

"So the perennial complaint of Bahamians is that their generation land or land that they consider commonage or Crown land are unavailable to them will be addressed in a systematic way, in a lawful way by a caring government that is going to make available to Bahamians the same economic exemptions that same tax incentives the foreigners get when they say they want to open a business or open up a hotel or do any kind of economic activity," Mr Bethel said.


John 5 years, 8 months ago

This program in its present format is bound to fail. Firstly it excludes the majority of persons and businesses it is intended to help . Secondly it will attract people and businesses into these areas who will further displace those who are in dire straights. And whilst there needs to be accountability, many will not tolerate the ‘kneel and beg’ attitude of the government. This is a white.washed version of Urban Renewal soaked in arrogance.


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