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‘We are doing our best’

Government’s Over-the-Hill initiative is “making strides” and has plans to “spring forth this spring”, insisted Executive Manager of the Office of the Prime Minister’s Over-the-Hill Unit (OTHU) Samita Ferguson in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian.

On January 20, The Guardian met with some business owners in the Over-the-Hill area, who said the initiative did not seem to be making an impact, with most saying they were either not aware of or not taking advantage of concessions offered under the program.

While Ferguson acknowledged that more community awareness needs to be done, she said the government has actually seen an increase in the number of businesses that have been trying to take advantage of the program and that the reason the numbers may seem low could be because applications were lacking information.

“I still don’t have an accurate figure and I think it’s best to quote accurately, but…there was an uptick in terms of individuals applying for the concession,” Ferguson said.

“Everything is by trial by error, I would say…and we have done it but I know we have to speed dial in terms of community walkabouts.

“We talk about marketing strategy, you know, word of mouth is the most effective means of communication, it could be either transferred negative or positive, but we do plan on walking about again to tap into the businesses within the area.”

She added, “We’ve left applications within our urban renewal community centers in times past and we plan on doing that again. We’ve previously communicated with community leaders.

“So, what’s happening now, we’ll have to beef up more of our marketing strategy.”

She said walkabouts will recommence this month and “hopefully” will be done block by block to help raise awareness.

As of last March, fewer than 20 individuals had benefitted from tax concessions under the program.

However, Ferguson sought to defend that, saying: “You have persons that are applying, but it may seem like the number is not rising because perhaps there may be a piece of document that is essential for completion of the application that they may need.

“We’ve had stories where individuals may forget, or when they remember it’s like a couple of months down.

“So it seems like, ‘Oh are the numbers increasing?’ Well, you know, you’ve got to make sure that everything is in place and it’s okay. It may be an innocent act that persons may not realize, ‘oh I need to bring this piece of information’ or whatever.

“We are doing our endeavor best and it’s beyond just what it may seem. It’s ensuring that information is disseminated and the reality of the matter is that the social empowerment key is very essential and that comes with public awareness.”

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