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Cooper Wants VAT-free Zones


Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said the government made a “tragic mistake” by only declaring East Grand Bahama as an economic recovery zone and urged the government to make Abaco and Grand Bahama VAT-free zones.

According to Cooper, while he surveyed the government’s short-term economic plan for Grand Bahama and Abaco, there are some elements “that make good sense, such a special recovery zones,” but there are other elements that “do not make sense.”

 “While East Grand Bahama was severely impacted, from what I am told more than two thirds of the homes and businesses on Grand Bahama sustained damage from the storm.  Most people on the island lost vehicles, well outside of East Grand Bahama,” Cooper said during yesterday during the PLP’s Marathon Branch Meeting.

“Freeport, the island’s economic engine, needs restarting.  Downtown Freeport was badly flooded with many businesses losing all their inventory, suffering mold infestation and remain without power in many areas.”

Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis declared East Grand Bahama, Abaco and the Abaco Cays as special economic recovery zones for three years.

As part of the special economic recovery zone, the government will also establish a $10 million loan guarantee and equity financing program.

However, Cooper said, “Even with the government promising $10 million in government guaranteed loans, a sum that the government will shortly realize is far too low, most people won’t be able to access that capital in a timely manner or access enough to adequately rebuild and resupply.  Yes, these people can take advantage of the exigency order, but the order is only good for 90 days. ”

Cooper added that living in Freeport does not automatically mean that residents can import goods duty free and insisted that Grand Bahama and Abaco be made “VAT-free zones for the next three years.”   

“This would aid in the rebuilding and incentivize people to move to the islands,” he said.

Cooper, who is also the Member of Parliament for Ragged Island, also urged the government to ensure that Ragged Island has access to these same incentives.

“For over two years I have been agitating for this government to address the concerns of Ragged Island, and to no avail,” Cooper said.

“We have gotten minimal assistance and more big promises that have yet to come to fruition.  We are still awaiting government buildings and proper infrastructure.  We are still awaiting the promised solarization of the island. 

“They say that will happen before the end of the year, but they didn’t say which year.  Two years later and the government continues to fail Ragged Island.  Still no school, no police, no nurse and no sense of normalcy.  Still the minister says the government is waiting on the plan.

“If it takes two plus years for the government to even approve a plan for an island with a population of less than a hundred, then I think it is fair to be concerned about how long it will take for the plan of island with over 20,000 people to emerge.

I say all this tonight to tell you that we cannot let serious question go unanswered and serious concerns go unaddressed because we do not want to be seen as political.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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