Darville calls Over-the-Hill Bill flawed
Slamming the Economic Empowerment Zones Bill, 2018 as “flawed” and “rushed”, Senator Dr. Michael Darville said if modifications aren’t made, a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration would amend the legislation to provide greater financial assistance and protection for the poor.
“We know the great concern with poverty in our country and these are tough economic times, and many people have been affected as a result of these tough economic times,” said Darville as he contributed to debate on the bill in the Senate.
“The government must take steps to address these growing concerns. This flawed bill serves as proof of the incompetence that is displayed by this administration, trying to rush things out, without properly thinking it out. They simply refuse to listen to sound advice particularly from the people affected by their policy.
“We believe that the few amendments we intend to bring forth will protect and give the residents in these economic empowerment zones the legislative support they need. The subsidies that are being proposed by the government, we believe the wealthy will benefit and because the poor cannot capitalize, they will in turn suffer.
“…In the event that our amendments are rejected, when the good Lord gives us an opportunity to be government again, our team will bring this bill back to Parliament and fix these irregularities that are currently in the draft bill.”
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis offered similar criticism when he contributed to debate on the bill in the House of Assembly.
Both Davis and Darville have argued that the bill, meant to spur economic growth in urban areas, will result in further hardship on the poor.
Darville encouraged the government to offer grant funding and low interest loans for residents with good ideas in the Over-the-Hill communities.
The Economic Empowerment Zones Bill, 2018 details tax exemptions and benefits for residents and businesses in the designated tax-free zones.
The prime minister said that the bill is designed to encourage residential and commercial property development and investment in the zones.
But Darville, the former minister for Grand Bahama, said, “Grand Bahama can boast of one of the oldest free trade zones in the western hemisphere, yet the struggle is real.
“…Unfortunately, this bill in its current form is lacking and offers nothing more than duty free concessions that currently exist in east and west Grand Bahama put in place by our last administration.”
Once the bill becomes law, businesses with an aggregate turnover of $5 million or less will be exempt from customs duties for the import of commercial vehicles, business license fees and excise tax.
Residents who are seeking to build homes in the zones will receive exemption from customs duties on all materials necessary for the construction or reconstruction of buildings and structures.
Homeowners in the zones will also be exempt from real property tax, excise tax and stamp duty.
Businesses that sell alcohol as their primary activity, and gaming houses, are not eligible for the exemptions.