PM: Don’t expect resolution overnight with Over-the-Hill tax-free zones

PM: Don’t expect resolution overnight with Over-the-Hill tax-free zones
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

As of last week, only 17 people applied for tax concessions in designated areas


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While acknowledging that his administration has to increase its public relations to ensure residents in the designated tax-free zones Over-the-Hill are made aware that there are tax concessions available to them, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said there should be no misconception that the process to reinvigorate business and create job opportunities in those areas will occur overnight.

As of last week, 17 people had applied for tax concessions under the Over-the-Hill tax-free zone initiative.

“Seventeen, [but] we will ramp up,” Minnis said during a press conference Saturday at the Lynden Pindling International Airport after returning from multilateral meetings with United States President Donald Trump and four other Caribbean leaders.

“We recognize that there are some, in spite of all the public relations that people hear, there are still some that said they did not know.

“I visit the inner-city and as I speak to businessmen, they themselves said they don’t know.

“So, we will ensure to increase it. But still, don’t expect a complete resolution overnight.”

Insisting that the inner-city is dear to him, having grown up in Bain Town, Minnis said he plans to “aggressively attack poverty”.

However, he said he was amazed that following decades of neglect under previous administrations, the public has an expectation for his administration to fulfill its program Over-the-Hill in one year.

“It’s amazing that the inner-city was neglected for 50 years and you want resolution in one,” Minnis said.

“That is impossible.

“Pregnancy takes nine months before a baby is delivered. It doesn’t happen overnight.

“And when the baby comes, they crawl before they walk, and then they run.

“They don’t enter the Olympics. The Olympics is 30 years or 20 years away, so it can’t happen overnight.”

Areas in the Over-the-Hill community were declared tax-free zones last November.

The government’s white paper on the program was tabled in Parliament last April.

These areas that fall under the program, include Bains and Grants Town and Centreville.

The zone runs from the south of Queen’s Staircase, east of Nassau Street, north of Wulff Road and west of Collins Avenue.

The concessions, among other things, would 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.

Asked whether he expects the program to achieve what the government has set out to, the prime minister said with any initiative launch, he does his best to ensure success and “I will continue to do my best for the Bahamian populous, and not just within the inner-city, but the Bahamian populous at large”.

He said as part of the administration’s social agenda, he will continue to focus on improving the lives of the disenfranchised and poor.

The Economic Empowerment Zone Bill was passed in Parliament last July.

The prime minister previously said the initiative is expected to facilitate a rebirth of the values, beauty and economic viability in the designated economic zones.

According to Minnis, the idea of the initiative is to reinvigorate businesses, create job opportunities, stimulate higher living standards and improve the quality of life for residents of Over-the-Hill.

The prime will deliver his second report to the nation for 201 tonight at 8:00 p.m.

The prime-time address will be carried on television and radio and is the second in a series of reports that will provide important updates and information to the people of The Bahamas on a range of issues.