Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced the drafting of an order to immediately make Abaco a value added tax-free zone.
The order, when enforced, would override government's previously announced start date of December 1.
However, the change will only apply to Abaco and not Grand Bahama.
Dr Minnis explained to the House of Assembly yesterday that Grand Bahama had inventories, which needed to be dealt with appropriately. "There was some degree of confusion as to what was allowed duty free and VAT free within Abaco and I know that the commencement period for VAT free has been placed at December 1," Dr Minnis said during his contribution to debate on the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill 2019.
"The explanation given was that it would take a couple weeks to readjust the computer to deal with the VAT-free component, but we must understand that Abaco has no inventory with no computer. There is no commerce. There is nothing to adjust. Only Grand Bahama and therefore the order is being made/drafted so that Abaco will be VAT-free immediately."
Dr Minnis said this would apply to most residential and commercial products, adding an exigency list is to be expanded.
He added: "Grand Bahama would be delayed until the 1st (of December) because Grand Bahama has inventory that has to be dealt with appropriately but there is no way or no reason why Abaco should be penalised because Grand Bahama has inventory."
The VAT-free zoning is envisaged to further assist with getting the island operational in the shortage possible time.
"We are actively working to get these economic engines working," Dr Minnis said. "Now some people may visit Abaco and then say looking at Marsh Harbour that they aren't doing anything, but we must remember that the southern end of Abaco is functional. The northern end is functional. The lights in the Cooper's Town area was connected and functional Sunday, so Cooper's Town is now enjoying air condition and the whole works.
"The North Abaco Port is open, Marsh Harbour Port is open and the airport I have been ensured should be by weekend or soon after," he said referring to the return of international flights.