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North Abaco MP Addresses Budget Debate

Member of Parliament for North Abaco and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Darren Henfield, noted that the Government of the Bahamas must now do the “hard thing to mitigate and or fix the mismanagement of the previous Government.”

Mr. Henfield said concerning the increase of VAT to 12 percent that “No sensible or right-thinking Government willfully burdens its people with taxes. But after five years of fiscal mismanagement, we are left with very little choice.”

“I think Bahamians have a right to be concerned about any government that asks for an increase in taxation,” he said. “Bahamians are untrusting, are skeptical. They are untrusting of governments.”

Mr. Henfield said that the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, 2018, which is now out for consultation, “will when passed, for the first time in the history of our country, provide guiding principles and rules for the way the Government spends and accounts for the people’s money.”

He said, “this Minnis led Administration will do all humanly possible to account for the people’s money on our watch.”

Mr. Henfield said that “the Bahamian people… sent us here to fix the problems and challenges that we face. We came to fix it and we have the courage to try.”

“Governing for us at this point means that we have to do the hard thing to mitigate and or fix the mismanagement of the previous Government during their stewardship of this country’s economy.”

He said that his constituents will “benefit from the elimination of VAT on all breadbasket items; the elimination of VAT from residential electricity bills at or under $200.00 and water bills at or under $50.00; the increase of Customs personal travel exemption by $200.00.

He said that charitable organizations won’t have to pay VAT on the funds they raise; shoes and clothes will be duty free when bought from local, licensed, merchants; Commercial printers in Abaco will bring in their processing and garment manufacturing equipment duty free and pass those savings on to customers; will continue to benefit from the Family Island Development Encouragement Act.

He said first time homeowners will not be saddled with Stamp Tax over the next five years and for the next two years won’t have to pay duty on materials used for renovation, repair and upgrade of dilapidated buildings;

He said “Our schools will not have to pay Business License fees if they’re registered with the Ministry of Education.”

“The Bahamas, in general, and North Abaco, in particular benefits from a relatively large community of second home owners from the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Bakers Bay, in my constituency, are beneficiaries of their presence.”

Mr. Henfield, addressing exemptions on Aircraft said a “large number of people who call The Bahamas their second home own their own aircraft and our current system makes it difficult for them to have them registered in The Bahamas as we believe many of them would like to.”

He said that off-shore aircraft registry has grown tremendously in the last several years and the removal of the current customs import duty on aircraft, the government believes, will help to make The Bahamas a competitive jurisdiction, expand the registry and increase revenue.

“We believe the time is right to act now because the effects of Brexit on this industry as relates to the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey Registries are yet unknown,” he said.

He said the government’s goal is to build a competitive Aircraft Registry “akin to our respectable Bahamas Ship Registry, which continues to attract many of the world’s premier shipping companies.”

He also noted that this Government has a progressive agenda to get Bahamian families in their own homes through the provision of Service Lots which includes areas of North Abaco.

“We have identified land in Central Pines, Murphy Town, Coopers Town, Fox Town, Green Turtle Cay and Grand Cay. To this end, the Prime Minster and I recently toured potential sites in Central Pines and Murphy Town. We look forward to this initiative taking root and growing like wild fire all across North Abaco,” he said.

He also said “I am pleased that the Minister of Works has gotten the necessary Cabinet Approval to address that portion of road on the Sherlin Bottle Highway between Murphy Town and Joe’s Creek known to us as the Stink Pond.”

“It will cost the Government in excess of one million dollars but it will be monies well spent as the remediation to this area of the highway will potentially save lives and restore the eco-system by allowing the flow of the water from one side to the next through the installation of culverts.”

Mr. Henfield said that the Minister responsible for the Environment has given assurance that the Green Turtle dump site will be addressed “which will hopefully result in the removal of waste from Green Turtle Cay.”

He said that land in Fox Town has been identified for a cemetery which it is hoped will be sufficient to service the area of Little Abaco.

Mr. Henfield said he is “pleased to see the level of development in the Grand Cay area where the recent sale of Walkers Cay brings even more optimism to the area. We look forward to the developer realizing his vision of restoring Walkers Cay to its former glory and we are heartened by the fact that the new owner frequented the Cay as a boy.”

Concluding, Mr. Henfield said “We continue to address where we can the clean-up of parks and just recently we commenced removing garbage and all forms of debris from the sides of the newly paved South-side Road outside of Murphy Town.”

“I wish to use this opportunity to ask Abaconians to stop littering and dumping illegally all over the island.

“Travelling along the Sherlin Bootle Highway daily, we see the results of people who indiscriminately throw trash from their vehicles along the highway. This practice negatively impacts upon our tourism economy,” he said.

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