The government is setting up special economic zones to allow for Grand Bahamians and Abaconians to rebuild their lives and businesses back to normal in the quickest time, with the least amount of red tape, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
Minnis, who made the announcement during a special press conference yesterday, explained that special bonded facilities will be set up in order for the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama to purchase duty-free items for their homes and businesses.
Minnis also announced a special $10 million facility for businesses that will be administered by the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC).
“For East Grand Bahama and for the Abacos, we will extend the ‘bonded’ items facility that is a feature of the Port Area of Grand Bahama,” Minnis said.
“Thus, a resident of Abaco or East Grand Bahama who is setting up his or her business or undertaking their construction project will be able to buy their items on the island at the duty-free prices.
“Those with approved projects in the special zones will also be able to buy their goods in New Providence and elsewhere – through participating vendors – and be able to obtain duty-free prices.
“I have pointed out that the aim of this exercise is to facilitate and encourage economic activity and development.”
Minnis explained that the $10 million in grants, loan guarantees and equity capital will be administered through the SBDC, the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Capital Fund, the Bahamas Development Bank and the commercial banking sector and will target “those entrepreneurs and business segments that would not normally qualify for regular bank credit.”
“The government wants the business communities in the affected islands to know that we will support them in the most direct of ways to get them up and running again,” said Minnis.
“The government recognizes though, that it must make it as easy as possible for Grand Bahamians and Abaconians to both get back in business and to access these financial facilities.”
He added that in order to minimize fraud, these concessions and projects will have to be registered and will be subject to monitoring.
“However, the government will ensure that the business licensing and the project monitoring processes will be as nimble and as efficient as possible,” he said.
The government has also allowed for the provision of real property tax exemptions and business license fee exemptions.
“In the Family Islands it is foreign landholders who are subject to real property tax,” Minnis said.
“Thus they will only qualify for this exemption if their developed properties are up to standard, or if they are taking the steps to repair and refurbish their premises to get them back to standard.
“Properties that are not repaired or refurbished – or otherwise not in a habitable condition – will not benefit from this concession. Undeveloped properties will not benefit from this concession.”