NON-STOP: Abaconians still pushing to rebuild despite SERZ uncertainty, says Hutton

NON-STOP: Abaconians still pushing to rebuild despite SERZ uncertainty, says Hutton
Aerial view of the harbor, beach and lighthouse in Hope Town, Abaco. (FILE PHOTO)

ABACO, BAHAMAS —The Abaco Chamber of Commerce president said yesterday that while certainty is being sought over the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) extension, “it is not stopping us in our tracks”.

Ken Hutton told Eyewitness News: “With regards to the SERZ extension, we’ve been in the dark. It’s not just me; it’s the homeowners on the cays, Marsh Harbour, Dundas Town and Murphy Town who are finally getting a chance to rebuild and are wondering what’s going to happen in June.

Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton.

“We would certainly like some clarity, but it’s not stopping us in our tracks.”

The government in late 2019 declared the Abacos and the island of Grand Bahama Special Economic Recovery Zones (SERZ) to provide businesses and homeowners in the areas impacted by the deadly Category 5 hurricane with a number of tax breaks and concessions.

Under the SERZ order, value-added tax (VAT), import duty and excise tax were eliminated on construction materials and all other physical goods sold and brought into the zones; discounts were offered on the VAT payable on the sale of real property for transactions valued up to $500,000; and exemptions were instated for import taxes on replacement vehicles.

The tax breaks and customs duty exemptions were initially extended to residents and businesses until December 30, 2020, but were subsequently extended to June 30, which coincides with the close of the fiscal year.

Hutton also told Eyewitness News he has serious concerns over the status of the rebuild of Abaco’s main port.

“There may be something going on behind the scenes which I’m not privy to, but I’ve been behind the port rebuild since July of last year and to date, nothing has happened,” said Hutton.

My biggest concern is that the port is operating on international waivers from the coast guard and the IMO. It’s not that any foreign country can shut us down, but what they can do is bar ships from Abaco calling directly into the US. That would mean that they can drop off the cargo but can’t go back to us. That would force them to transship through someplace like Freeport or Nassau and the cost on it would be catastrophic.

We are concerned that those waivers will be pulled soon.”