Abaco needs three more years of the government’s Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) concessions, acting president of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce Daphne Degregory-Miaoulis told members of the media yesterday, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic stole three years from Abaco’s recovery.
She made her remarks to the media following the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s Power Breakfast at Margaritaville, where she asked Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis for a SERZ extension on Abaco’s behalf.
Degregory-Miaoulis said while Abaco needs at least three years of concessions on value-added tax (VAT) and customs duties, the island would take two if the government would agree to it.
She contended that one year would likely be too short of a time for some Abaconians to make much progress, especially given the continued supply chain issues.
September 1 will make three years since Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“We really haven’t had three years because in the middle of that we had for the past two years COVID… everything came to a standstill,” said Degregory-Miaoulis.
“So, really and truly we haven’t even had the three years that we were supposed to have to rebuild.
“Now that things are loosening up and the supply chain is starting to be a little bit freer, even though you still have to wait months on end, now we should be getting the additional two years to make up for what we lost.
“It’s just way too difficult for suppliers, for persons who couldn’t manage to get their goods in… no, it’s not fair.”
She added that it seems that the government has once again begun charging VAT and duty on certain items that were on the SERZ list following the hurricane.
According to Degregory-Miaoulis, there continues to be a shortage of housing for workers who need to be brought in to rebuild properties, and properties that were destroyed during the hurricane continue to be an eyesore in communities and a threat to neighboring properties should another storm pass through this hurricane season.
“They need to be cleaned up,” she said. “Right now if we had a hurricane, all that debris is all going to cause further damage to buildings that have been repaired.”
She added that Marsh Harbour’s dock remains in dire need of repair, calling the situation “an absolute mess”.