By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A senior Baker’s Bay official has urged the Government to extend the "big silver bullet" of Abaco's Special Economic Recovery Zone status and tax breaks beyond year-end 2020 to aid reconstruction.
Geoffrey Jones, director of sales and marketing, told the Abaco Business Outlook webinar that Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club will re-open on December 21 but called for less "COVID confusion".
He said: “It’s a beehive of activity over here at the Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club. It’s a private members-only club that was started 15 years ago here on the north-west end of Great Guana Cay. It is one of 24 clubs developed and managed by Discovery Land Company, our parent, where we have clubs all around the world and a very diverse membership to all of the above.”
"We had 185 homes completed before Dorian and another 40 under construction. We feature a 200-slip deep water marina, capable of hosting yacths up to 250 feet, and the other amenities including tennis, pickle ball, basketball, football fields, six or seven dining venues and other water sports and features, etc.”
Mr Jones added: “I honestly believe that without Dorian we would have been crazy busy, and likely would have sold out of the 18 percent of real estate we have remaining left for sale. Even including the COVID crisis, I think that for the Abacos in general these resorts and clubs would have been a great safe haven for those looking to work remotely and avoid contact with COVID.
"Had we not had the events of September 1 and the two days ensuing, we would have been in much better shape. In the meantime we are trying to strive for a December 21 opening where we can have our membership back here.
"We expect upwards of 450 members to join us over the holidays; that’s down from a peak of about 1,400 that we would normally have over these weeks, but we don’t have all the facilities and homes ready. We have members that are chartering yachts to be here, while their homes are being renovated.
"We have got currently under construction all of the facilities, all of the amenities, and over 100 member houses being renovated and rebuilt. We currently have over 1,000 people on property every day. We currently have 1,400 licensed contractors that are welcomed to do work here at any given time, and we are pushing as hard as we can to reopen the club on December 21.”
Mr Jones, responding to a question about the type of assistance Baker's Bay requires to move a little faster, said: “I think for Abaco, and everyone here, the big silver bullet would be an extension of the VAT tax holiday.
"As typical when Bahamian islands have been wrecked by hurricanes in the past, the Government has alleviated some of the duties that existed prior, especially for construction materials and construction activity, and this has primed the pump to get materials here and to get people rebuilding, and to do it without the burden of the tax.
"So a tax holiday is typical. They have run as much as three years in the past over all of the hurricanes, and I think it’s vitally important for the Government to get their tax system back up and running, but it’s also for Abaco a huge incentive to get people building quickly here. So a continuation of that would be helpful.”
Mr Jones also encouraged the Government to address ongoing crime, and called for “less of the COVID confusion. We have more prospects cancelling visits because of not being sure of the testing and quarantining and the lockdowns".