Categorized | National News

Gov’t Accused of Hurting The Poor

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader, Philip Davis,  says that if passed as is, the Economic Empowerment Zone Bill 2018, will only create overlapping of procedures of administrative arrangements.

The opposition has advanced the  argument that the Minnis administration is no friend of the poor and that it is  using provisions of the Economic Empowerment Bill as proof.

Wrapping up the Opposition’s contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr. Davis,  scolded the government for bringing a bill his party believes only uplifts the rich at the expense of the poor.

“This bill, this framework, is guaranteed to increase property values, increase rent, lead to higher business profitability.

“In short this does not benefit the vulnerable, this hurts the poor.

“This displacement policy will favour one side, creating concessions and loopholes promoting gentrification,” he said.

Mr. Davis added that what the bill hopes to achieve is already incorporated in other pieces of legislation, in policies and programmes like Urban Renewal and in agencies like the Ministry of Works, the Department of Environmental Health, the Real Property Act and in Customs regulations.

PLP Deputy, Chester Cooper, in his contribution to the debate expressed doubt that the proposed legislation will work as structured.

In fact, he charged that it’s not particularly well thought out in terms of the needs of the impacted communities and that he doesn’t believe for a second that it’s about helping the poor, but rather the ones to benefit are the rich.

The rich people own the land, not the poor people.  The rich people who don’t live Over-the-Hill are the ones who own the buildings and apartment complexes, not the poor in mass,” he said.

“The rich people are landlords – they collect rent, the poor people Over-the-Hill pay rent. This is pretty simple stuff.

“The poor people don’t, by and large, own these properties which the incentives are supposed to help.

“Secondly,  my research tells me, that many of the businesses in these areas are owned by Chinese and other foreigners, and I have no issue with Chinese or other foreigners, but I make the point, that it’s not the poor Bahamian people who are going to be advantaged by this bill, the people you say you care for,” said the MP for Exuma and Ragged Island.

Pointing to what he called gaping flaws, house members heard how the bill fails to specify which Minister the waiver of customs, excise taxes, real property taxes and business license fees will fall under.

He also took issue with the penalty that companies would only pay a fine if the law is  broken,  but individuals get sent to prison; that no regulations were laid or established prior to the debate, there’s no direct indication of exactly where the zones are and that the provision that the company’s duty free vehicle be used for activities of the zone is simply impossible to enforce.

Mr. Cooper said, “It would appear to be very difficult to monitor the menu of concessions to ensure that non-eligible entities and individuals are not benefitting.

“More thorough analytical work should have come before this legislation, if only to determine whether or not it was economically feasible to proceed in this way at this time.

“As a rule, re-urbanization tends to favor the “haves” over the “have-nots” at the end of the day.

“And that is the crux of my concern at the end of this all. That at the end of this exercise, those who will have, will have more, and those who have next to nothing perhaps will have even less,” Mr. Cooper said.

Despite the issues and concerns seemingly plaguing the bill, Golden Isles MP, Vaughn Miller said he’s sufficiently satisfied it has the potential to impact and bring social and economic restoration and rejuvenation to depressed and challenged heritage areas.

However, he made an appeal for the oldest of the heritage villages on New Providence, Adelaide, to be added to the list of communities for the economic empowerment zone.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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