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Renew Dorian tax concessions, says Abaco Chamber president

With post-Dorian tax concessions for Abaco and Grand Bahama set to expire on December 1, 2022, Acting President of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce Daphne DeGregory-Maoulis is urging the government to extend those concessions yet again. She says its not just about the taxes, but about real life struggles.

Three years after Dorian ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama, the situation facing many Abaconians remains dire. Degregory-Maioulis noted that people are not fully back to work on the island, and in fact, there are many Abaconians who are still not living on the island because their homes have not been rebuilt.

“I really don’t know how the government can expect the number one revenue-generating island outside of New Providence pre-Dorian to recover and be able to contribute to the public treasury as we were [in these circumstances],” she said.

DeGregory-Maoulis told The Guardian yesterday that the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) order, which was initially issued in December 2019 following Hurricane Dorian and certain portions of which were recently extended by the Davis 

administration until December1, 2022, has not had the full impact intended by the government. She said the exemptions are still necessary.

“They are necessary because we actually didn’t have an advantage of three years,” she said.

“We only had – at best – six months to a year to take advantage of those concessions, and so in my opinion the government should extend the term, which was originally awarded to us so that we can get the full benefit.

“We had the interruption of COVID-19 and the supply chain issues, where we couldn’t get materials. We also had a shortage of manpower and labor. Right after Dorian there were a number of NGOs and international assistance available to Abaconians for rebuilding. They had to all go, so everything came to a standstill. Literally, everything.”

The SERZ concessions include value-added and import tax-free importation of household furniture, furnishing and appliances; hardware supplies, building materials, electrical fixtures and materials, and plumbing fixtures and materials. In addition, VAT was cancelled on construction services during the period, and certain replacement vehicles were allowed to be imported free of import taxes.

Bahamians, residents and prospective residents 18 years and older either residing or with businesses operating in Abaco or Grand Bahama are eligible to take advantage of the concessions.

DeGregory-Maioulis said she’d taken the matter up with the government.

“I wrote to the prime minister directly, requesting the extension. Unfortunately, I have not had a response,” she said.

She reported a conversation she had on Tuesday with a woman who had lost her home and husband to Hurricane Dorian, had suffered a mini-stroke, and was living in a container on her property in Green Turtle Cay. The woman couldn’t qualify for the SERZ concessions and has not been able to rebuild her home, nor has she been able to work.

“These are real life struggles,” DeGregory-Maioulis said.