Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest emphasized that in the Grand Bahaha Port Area Extension of Tax Exemptions Bill, 2017, all homeowners, within the Port Area, will be exempted from real property taxes.
He discussed this during his address at The Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO) Annual Northern Conference, recently (Wednesday, October 25), which was held at the Pelican Bay Hotel.
Turnquest said that it is important to note this distinction from the 2016 legislative regime where exemptions, including real property tax exemptions, were limited to Licensees of the Port Authority only. The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) petitioned the government to broaden this exemption, as the uncertainty of real property tax exemption for all homeowners in the Port Area (especially that for non-Bahamian second homeowners) was of concern.
“However, with that in mind, it is important for the people of The Bahamas to be reminded that a Memorandum of Understanding was executed on April 26, 2016 between (inter alia) the Government of The Bahamas, the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Grand Bahama Development Company (“DevCo”),” he said.
DevCo is an affiliate company of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which owns over 70,000 acres of land on the island of Grand Bahama. DevCo is also responsible for master planning most of the land whether it is zoned for tourist, commercial or residential issue in the City of Freeport.
Turnquest explained that under Clause 3 of that Memorandum of Understanding, DevCo was required to provide a 20-year master plan in respect of the landholdings of DevCo, which has been presented. As this Bill creates the certainty, of sought, that all homeowners in the Port Area will receive a 20-year exemption on real property taxes, it is anticipated that the master plan will now be fully activated. We expect that efforts will be made by all stakeholders to revitalize the second homeowners market and to attract new residential, industrial and touristic development.”
Clause 5 of the Bill provides that the government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority shall establish a joint investment board to be known as the Port Area Investments Board. This Board is critical as it will approve and regulate foreign direct investment into the Port Area consistently with national economic policies and laws.
Members on the Board will include five persons appointed by the prime minister, three persons appointed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority and two persons appointed by the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce representing the Licensees.
This Board is foreshadowed as a beginning of the One Stop Shop concept for Freeport, which would expedite the processing of applications relevant to Grand Bahama specifically. While the former administration spoke to it, it is this government that has delivered on that promise.
“Forgive me at this point one indiscretion as I must comment on the remarks of the former Minister for Grand Bahama (Dr. Michael Darville), who in his address last night commented on the state of Grand Bahama’s economy in terms that would lead the unsuspecting to believe that our problems just began on May 10, 2017,” he said.
“Having been voted out of office on his administration’s failure to stimulate GB’s economy, such criticisms after six months, is rich and stretches the bounds of reason. I just wish to remind him that on assuming office, this administration inherited a broken economy, closed hotels, a flagging economy and significant unemployment numbers, especially among the youth.
“I will have more to say later on these matters, but I just wanted to remind Dr. Darville and the Bahamian community, of his record in office and encourage him to think on the broken legacy his administration left behind, which we must now try to repair in the shortest time possible,” said Turnquest.
He noted that Clause 4 of the Bill provides that the GBPA and the government shall negotiate a Supplemental Memorandum of Understanding to address certain areas.
“The government recognizes that the full development of The Bahamas depends on the utilization of all of the natural resources of the country. The government realizes that the health and strength of Grand Bahama’s economy is vital to the growth and development of our Bahamas,” said the deputy prime minister.
“This is the just the beginning of delivery on our commitments for the people of Grand Bahama; for the People of The Bahamas,” Turnquest stated.