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Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner has criticized the government for taking too long to sign an exigency order meant to provide relief for Hurricane Sandy victims.
The destruction brought on by Hurricane Irene could result in increased investment by hoteliers in the maintenance and upgrading of their hotel properties in some of the Family Islands that were hardest hit by the storm, according to executive vice president of the Bahamas Hotel Association Frank Comito.
His statement came shortly after Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham signed an exigency order which allows hotel owners to bring certain goods duty free that would help with their rebuilding efforts.
"Typically, this is the time of year when the small hotels, particularly in the Family Islands, close for a month or a month and a half. During that down period is when they do some of their maintenance and upgrades and so on," Comito told reporters on the sidelines of the first Regional Seminar on Tourism at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort yesterday morning.
"With the recession over the last couple of years its been difficult to put a lot of money into that. But the hurricane may prompt some additional investments in those areas. So we're hopeful."
Hotel owners whose properties were pounded during the passage of Hurricane Irene are being encouraged to take advantage of the exigency order.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace and Comito said the tax break will no doubt assist the hotel operators, who in some cases were already struggling to effect upgrades and repairs to their properties.
"I believe there are a number of properties that will take advantage of that when they would not have done so before," Vanderpool-Wallace said.
Tourism officials toured hotel properties on Eleuthera, Abaco and Cat Island earlier this week.
Vanderpool-Wallace said reports about the damage to most of the properties have been exaggerated.
"We understand there's a great deal of hysterics when you get in the middle of a hurricane. Some of the things said were incorrect," he said, adding that the properties are in much better shape than were thought.
However, he added that as a result of the storm some properties will be forced to closed their doors for repairs.
"In the Family Islands, the good news is some of the properties would have been closed anyway for renovation. And as I said earlier some of them saw what happened as an acceleration of their plans. Some of them were thinking that they weren't going to do anything until next year and now they are going to do it now. So we think some of the properties are going to come out much fresher than they ever have been as a result of what happened."
Among the hotel properties that will close is the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort on New Providence. The property will be shut down for four weeks to address structural and other damage sustained from Hurricane Irene. While New Providence is not one of the islands that is listed on the exigency order, the property owner can still apply for duty exemption.
Long Cay, Mayaguana, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Inagua, Ragged Island, Cat Island and Acklins are the islands listed to benefit from the order.
Duty free goods include building materials, electrical fixtures and materials, plumbing fixtures and materials, household furniture and furnishing and appliances, among other things.
NASSAU, The Bahamas - The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA wishes to advise that the Ministry of Finance has extended the Exigency Order permitting residents whose properties were damaged during Hurricane Sandy, 2012, to import goods duty free for a further period of 90 days.
People who suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy will be allowed to bring in certain goods duty free for the next three months, the government has formally advised.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has signed an exigency order, which came into effect on Thursday.
Residents of Abaco, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma and Cays, Grand Bahama and Long Island who were impacted by the storm can benefit.
The tax exemption could impact hundreds of homeowners and business owners on those islands.
The list of goods that can be imported duty free include building materials, electrical fixtures and materials, plumbing fixtures and materials, household furniture fixtures, furnishing and appliances, freezers and heaters, materials for clean-up or repairs toproperty, including fences, fishing boats, gear, parts and apparatus, farming equipment and utensils and motor vehicles, the government said.
In order to qualify for the exemption, the claims and/or applications must be certified by the director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), or any of his appointed agents.
While only some islands were named, anyone who lives in The Bahamas whose property was damaged as a result of Sandy may also apply for duty free relief. Those applications must also be approved by the director of NEMA.
The government has warned that if there is found to be any abuse of the order, the goods may be seized and disposed of.
The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) has estimated that Sandy caused up to $20 million in losses to the government. However, private losses were estimated to be at least more than twice that amount. The regional insurance body said privately insured people are expected to claim losses between $50 million and $100 million.
According to a post-storm assessment conducted by NEMA, the damage from the storm was widespread over the country's chain of islands.
Sandy impact The Bahamas last month. The hurricane season closes on November 30.
Arthur's Town, CAT ISLAND -- Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said Saturday night the Free National Movement (FNM) administration is committed to developing the Family Islands through various initiatives.
"We have a plan for the development of Cat Island and our Family Islands," said Ingraham at a rally in Arthur's Town.
NASSAU, The Bahamas - Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie signed an Exigency Order that will allow residents who have been hard hit by Hurricane Sandy in October to bring in certain goods duty free for a period of three months.
The order came into effect Thursday, November 15, 2012. It is pursuant to the provisions of item 12 of Part B of the Fourth Schedule to the Tariff Act, and Item 5 Part B of the Second Schedule the Excise Act.
The urgent need for goods specified in Schedule A, which the minister is satisfied are intended for the relief of residents in the islands of Abaco, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma & Cays, Grand Bahama and Long Island who suffered loss as a result of the storm, and whose claims/applications in respect of such goods are certified by the Director of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, or any of his duly appointed agents.
The following is the list of goods permitted by the Minister of Finance to be imported duty free commencing November 15, 2012.
Such goods are: Building materials, electrical fixtures and materials, plumbing fixtures and materials, household furniture fixtures, furnishing and appliances, freezers and heaters, materials for clean-up or repairs to property including fences, fishing boats, gear, parts and apparatus, farming equipment and utensils and motor vehicles.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is expected to meet today with representatives from Morton Salt company's home office in the Untied States to receive a full report on the Inagua hurricane damage assessments they conducted during the past week and indications about their future plans.