Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has announced that the areas affected by Hurricane Dorian, which impacted the archipelago as a Category 5 hurricane at the beginning of September, will be designated Economic Recovery Zones for the next three years.
The designation given to East Grand Bahama, Abaco and the surrounding cays, is aimed at enabling those communities to benefit from a broad range of tax breaks and incentives, and other means of support, he said.
On September 1, Hurricane Dorian slammed into Abaco before going on to unleash its fury on Grand Bahama. Prime Minister Minnis says that for the communities of East Grand Bahama, Abaco, and the surrounding cays to get back to their former levels of social and economic vitality, it will be critical for the government to move with determination and haste to establish the right environment needed to restore commerce in the affected areas.
Several measures will be put in place for the special economic recovery zones:
1) Duty-free purchase of all materials, fixtures, furniture, vehicles and equipment for all business needs and for all business and residential construction/rehabilitation efforts. This provision will also be extended to domestic purchase of qualifying items that I will detail shortly.
2) Waiver of business license fees for operations within the zone.
3) Waiver on Real Property Tax payable on all eligible properties that are reconstructed, restored or are otherwise inhabitable by October 2020.
4) A VAT credit of up to 50 per cent on the sale of real property, provided that such sale will be immediately followed by material construction on, or enhancements to the property, or the utilisation of the purchased property to material commercial activity.
5) Establishment of a $10 million loan guarantee and equity financing programme to allow for qualifying Bahamian small and medium size business to secure up to $500,000 in financing under the programme to fund the restoration of businesses, or the creation of new businesses.
6) The Extension of the Provisional Business License Programme to all businesses – with limited exceptions – within the zones so as to allow for qualifying businesses to get started with their businesses within two business days of completed application.
7) The establishment of a business assistance One Stop Shop in Grand Bahama and Abaco that will house representatives of the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), the Bahamas Investment Authority, the Ministry of Finance, The Bahamas Investment Authority, The Department of Inland Revenue, The Department of Environmental Health and Building Permits units of the various agencies. This one stop shop will be equipped and empowered to ensure that all existing and new businesses will be able to work through any regulatory requirements within five working days.
“The provisions under the Special Economic Recovery Zone are intended to encourage and facilitate the rapid restoration of commerce in the affected areas so as to fulfil the government’s core objective of ensuring that Grand Bahamians and Abacoians can restart their lives on their own home islands,” Prime Minister Minnis said.