By YOURI KEMP
The deputy prime minister yesterday said the post-Dorian Economic Recovery Zones should be “completely up and running” by November 11 following a declaration by the Prime Minister.
K Peter Turnquest said: “We hope to be in position to have the Prime Minister make his declaration next week, with the full effect of the Order coming into effect in the week after. So we are hoping by 11 November we will be in a position to have those zones completely up and running.”
He added that one of the implementation obstacles in making these zones tax-free is the adjustments merchants will have to make to their systems and processes, which are currently set-up to levy Value-Added Tax on consumer sales.
“One of the challenges we have to address is with respect to the vendors themselves to ensure they are able to adjust their systems in time to be able to give effect to the Order,” Mr Turnquest explained.
“So we will be talking to the Chambers of Commerce in Nassau and on the affected islands to see what kind of lead time they need in order to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity that exists.”
Mr Turnquest had previously said thegovernment also plans to amend the VAT Act “to give a full effect to the long-term plan with respect to” the creation of the Economic Recovery Zones, as the law currently provides limited exemptions from the 12 percent levy. The Prime Minister’s proposed Order will, in the meantime, extend the exemptions covered in the initial Dorian exigency.
The deputy prime minister spoke as Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday pledged that Abaco and Grand Bahama will be VAT-free until June 2020 during a town meeting on Abaco’s Green Turtle Cay.
While details and a start date for this initiative have yet to be announced, the government said individuals and businesses on the two impacted islands will be exempt from the payment of VAT on a range of items, including unprepared food of all types, water, fruit and vegetable juice, clothes, shoes, hats, belts, stockings, gloves, scarves, cleaning supplies, beds and bedding material.
Other products designated as VAT-free are hardware supplies, building materials, landscaping supplies, pest control supplies, electrical fixtures and materials, electrical generators, farming equipment and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, manufacturing equipment, cots, protective and safety gear, household furniture, furnishings and appliances, solar panels, mosquito netting, plumbing fixtures and materials, office supplies and equipment, tents, air-conditioning units and other equipment.
“We want your economy to get going as quickly as possible. We want to get you back into your homes as soon as possible,” the Prime Minister told residents.
Dr Minnis also announced plans to establish The Bahamas National Recovery and Reconstruction Trust Fund, an independent non-political body to help fund home and building repairs. The Fund is included in the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill 2019, which was tabled in the House of Assembly this Tuesday.