NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that Grand Bahama, Abaco and the Abaco Cays will become tax free zones, to aid in Hurricane Dorian restoration and recovery efforts.
Minnis led a delegation to Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, where he held a town hall meeting and addressed resident on the island.
He also held a town hall in Guana Cay and will return to the Abacos on Friday to address residents in Man-O-War Cay and Elbow Cay on the progress of reconstruction efforts.
“In order to get you going as quickly as possible, we have declared the Abacos and the Cays, inclusive of Grand Bahama, a tax-free zone,” Minnis said.
“You will be able to bring in all of your materials, appliances, clothing etc…You will be able to over the next year or three years to bring those in duty free.
“You will also be declared VAT-free initially for one year and we will assess that going forth.
“But we feel that we must give you all the advantages possible in order to get you moving and mobilized as quickly as possible.
“And when I look around, I can say that you have done a remarkable and excellent job.”
The prime minister however did not note when the tax-free zone will take effect.
The new VAT relief policy means that individuals and businesses 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, 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.
VAT on fuel for generators in areas still without electricity will also be VAT-free.
Minnis also announced the government’s plan to establish The Bahamas National Recovery and Reconstruction Trust Fund. Provisions for the establishment of the fund is included in the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Bill, 2019, tabled on Tuesday.
“That fund will be ran, not by government, not by bureaucrats, but by the private sector, and overseen by trustees,” he continued.
“They’ll be trustees who are leaders in the banking sector, leaders in different parts of commerce, leaders of repute. And then they will have a subcommittee in the Ministry of Works or in conjunction with the new ministry. [They] will have engineers, structural engineers, assessments, make determinations, so that this fund will be able to assist you in rebuilding.
It’s essential to have that ran by the private sector because that’s where the trust comes.
“We know what we’ve experience in the past, but that’s the past so let’s move on.”
The prime minister said individuals will be able to receive $10,000 in assistance from the fund, and as it grows, the level of assistance will be assessed.
Additionally, Minnis announced that up to $1.5 million has been allotted for grants up to $50,000 for farming, fishing and maritime.
“Be assured that government, we will be here with you for the long haul, and it won’t happen overnight,” the prime minister added.
“We always say Bahamians are resilient, but I can always say that I’ve found Abaconians most resilient throughout the entire Bahamas.”
Minnis said he has made a commitment to return to the Abaco Cays and Grand Bahama every month, to ensure that the storm-ravaged areas are progressing and things are being rebuilt and reconstructed.