Chamber confederation encouraged by additional COVID-19 relief measures

Chamber confederation encouraged by additional COVID-19 relief measures

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation (BCCEC) yesterday said it was ‘encouraged’ by the additional measures to help businesses mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, BCCEC Chairman Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson noted there are some businesses that are unable to benefit in a statement.

“The BCCEC is further encouraged by the additional measures announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance whose presentation provided a more inclusive fiscal program geared towards assisting medium and large sized businesses,” Rutherford-Ferguson said.

“Collectively, the private sector employs the majority of the workforce in The Bahamas. For those businesses that are eligible, qualify and have not paid their business license fees already, the tax credits and tax deferrals will further assist them in bridging the gap between maintaining minimum levels of cash flow and maintaining payrolls, notwithstanding the loss in revenues. We eagerly await the full details of the tax credit and tax deferral employment program.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest told Parliament yesterday that government in an effort to protect up to 10,000 jobs within the private sector has created a payroll support initiative for qualifying businesses, as it will forego some $60 million in revenue over the next three months.

Turnquest noted that under the program qualifying businesses can receive assistance under a tax credit and tax deferral to help cover payroll expenses.

“The programme allows businesses to defer the payment of certain taxes and to benefit from a tax credit, up to $300,000 in each instance,” he said.

“This accommodation is specifically to provide businesses with the cash flow to preserve current employment levels. Businesses will have to commit to utilization of the tax credit solely for the purpose of covering payroll requirements,” said Turnquest.

He added: “A qualifying business will make an application to the Ministry of Finance and will be able to withhold their outstanding business license or VAT receipts collected – up to $200,000 per month for up to three months.

Rutherford-Ferguson said there are medium to large businesses that cannot generate or are restricted from generating revenue under the Emergency Orders and hence the Tax Credit and Tax Deferral Employee Retention Program is of little benefit to them.

“Additionally, given the fact that business license fees are due the end of March, many businesses have already paid,” Rutherford-Ferguson said.

“While we are not a proponent of opening up businesses to the peril of the general public, we understand that these businesses need a solution. We acknowledge that these are very challenging times.

“We further acknowledge that the Government is looking for ways to assist the business community  the country’s current  fiscal constraints, however, we look forward to working with the Government to develop a strategy that will help these businesses retain their staff compliment as well,” she said.

Rutherford-Ferguson added: “Over the past few weeks, the BCCEC, through its participation on the National Coordination Committee COVID-19, made recommendations to the Government geared towards assisting all businesses during these challenging times. We are pleased to see that our recommendations are strongly considered and implemented, where possible. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Government in this regard.”

Rutherford-Ferguson also noted that some  businesses have already adopted innovative ways to offer limited goods and services to the general public, as they abide by the terms of the Emergency Orders.

“The BCCEC encourages its members and the wider business community to provide suggestions on other ways to offer additional goods and services to the general public being mindful of balancing the continued health and safety of Bahamians and Residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and maintaining some level of commerce,” she said.