By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Unlicensed businesses operating in unregulated districts on Abaco are one of the biggest problems "plaguing" the island, its Chamber of Commerce president believes.
Ken Hutton, pictured, while addressing the Abaco Business Outlook conference, lamented the rise of unlicensed businesses operating in settlements such as The Mud and Pigeon Pea. "Unlicensed businesses and competition are probably one of the biggest problems here," he argued.
"These unregulated settlements have their own energy generation, barber shops, food stores and supply depots, none of which are licensed or pay VAT. This is a completely unregulated economy taking away from registered businesses. This is something the Chamber is very concerned about. We are hopeful and want to work with the Government to bring these unregulated neighbourhoods and developments into compliance."
Mr Hutton also highlighted the non-payment of taxes on rental properties. "We support regulated legal businesses. There are a lot of second homes on Abaco and, fortunately, most of their homes are managed by companies here on Abaco," he said.
"There are a few, however, renting their properties through overseas websites and never give the Government its due. This hurts existing businesses that are paying their taxes and short-changes the Government of needed tax revenue. There has to be a regime where any kind of non-occupied home must register."
Mr Hutton said the push back over real property tax reforms had created a sense of insecurity and instability in the economy among second homeowners. "A lot of second homeowners were taken aback. There was a lot of appraisals that came in that were rather out of the park. There was no structure as to how those taxes were calculated and renegotiated," he said.
"I believe that is now being handled, but the biggest problem it created was a sense of insecurity and instability in the economy. The second home ownership is the driving force of this economy right now, and when you throw something like an increase in real property taxes of something like 1,500 percent people get scared and start to rethink their current and future investment."
Mr Hutton also cited access to banking facilities and the lack of rental accommodation as issues affecting Abaco.