Minnis says things to get better over the next several years
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday announced that Fox Hill, Kemp Road, Saint Barnabas, Englerston and Gambier will be designated tax-free zones under the government’s economic empowerment program beginning in the upcoming fiscal year.
He made the announcement during the wrap-up to the budget debate in the House of Assembly.
He also announced that in addition to the existing tax concessions under the program, household furniture, stoves and refrigerators will become duty-free in those areas and new government subdivisions such as Lionel Davis Subdivision, and the new Carmichael subdivision.
According to the prime minister, the existing legislation will soon be amended to reflect the same.
The government plans to reduce customs duty on household furniture from 45 percent to 25 percent, and exempt refrigerators and stoves from duty.
Those duty reductions will not apply to items in the economic empowerment zones, however, Minnis noted.
The Economic Empowerment Zones Bill was passed in Parliament last July.
The zones — Bains and Grants Town and Centreville — became effective last November.
The concessions, among other things, allow successful applicants to bring in construction material duty-free, provide exemptions from real property tax and other tax exemptions for residents and businesses in the designated zones.
According to the prime minister, there is much more work to be done, but over the next several years things will continue to improve by way of more jobs and opportunities, in large part due to the $8 billion in nest investments across the archipelago.
As he outlined the Free National Movement’s (FNM) track record to date of caring for the poor, the underprivileged and the those without access to education, Minnis said Grand Bahama is being restored after being neglected and the government is in negotiations for an overhaul of the cruise port in Nassau.
He also announced that the government will provide more Crown land for the residents of San Salvador to build new homes, calling it sad that the island, after representation by the former deputy prime minister and minister of works under the Christie administration, “had to wait for an FNM government to complete its primary school”.
As it relates to Crown Land, the prime minister said his administration will ensure that thousands more Bahamians own their own real estate in the form of Crown Land, and efforts were ongoing to regularize related leases and grants.
He said this program will intensify in the upcoming fiscal year, while lamenting the PLP for failing to deal with the issue.
“How shameful and disgraceful, but not surprising,” Minnis said.
“What does this neglect tell us about his commitment to education.
“PLP leaders have a long, sad, and well-known history of neglecting their constituencies.
“For decades under Sir Lynden Pindling, Kemp’s Cay and South Andros were shamefully neglected and abandoned.”
He said the same could be said of former Prime Minister Perry Christie, who was the first sitting prime minister to lose his seat in Parliament.
Minnis said this was the result of poor leadership, scandals within the PLP, but also his “shameful neglect on Centreville”.
He accused the former administration of seeking to keep the electorate dependent on the party.
Minnis spent much of his contribution juxtaposing his administration’s governance over the last year to that of the Christie administration’s term, which he characterized as a period of hardship for Bahamians; a time when contracts were handed out like “candy” without full transparency; and a period in which the country lost vibrancy, economic standing and taxpayer dollars were squandered.
“We now have a much healthier, growing economy,” he said.
“But, we need to grow even more in order to lift up more Bahamians and to tackle the cost of living.
“More people need works and jobs. More people need money in their pockets. More people need to feel this recovery. But, I will continue to remind the Bahamian people where we came from because the now opposition that plunged our country into despair, sickness and poor health want to get their greedy hands back on the people’s money.”