Acting Deputy Financial Secretary, Athena Marche shared details about the financial resources being mobilized by the government to respond to the national crisis left in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, and provided details on how individuals and organizations can utilize the Exigency Order signed by the government to provide tax relief on the import of hurricane relief supplies.
During a press conference held at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on Wednesday, September 4, 2019, the Acting Deputy Financial Secretary explained that the Ministry of Finance is activating the necessary protocols to access emergency funds available under the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Contingent Line of Credit secured by the government late last year.
“This credit facility gives the government access to emergency financing to provide basic necessities to persons in the affected areas and to procure dedicated goods and services for the execution of restorative work.
The government will draw down on these funds based on an assessment of need at each phase of the recovery. She added, “Our technical teams, including local and international partners, are commencing a parametric and economic impact assessment to support this work. Ms. Marche stated as The Bahamas is covered by a Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC), the Ministry of Finance is activating the necessary assessment protocols to trigger any payments the country is qualified for.
“Overall, the Ministry of Finance is implementing the Government’s fiscal plan for catastrophic natural disasters to ensure the vital hurricane relief operations being conducted by NEMA are adequately funded.”
The Acting Deputy Financial Secretary also explained the details of the Declaration of Exigency signed by the Government to provide tax relief on the import of hurricane relief supplies. She noted that the Exigency Order puts a framework in place for the Ministry of Finance and its revenue collection agencies to operate within an emergency. Hurricane Dorian is not only a catastrophic natural disaster for The Bahamas it is an unprecedented global event.
The Exigency Order means that individuals who are directly impacted by the Hurricane in the affected areas can import approved goods duty free and VAT free.
It also means that private individuals and organizations who are making charitable donations can import approved goods into the country duty free and VAT free. The
public should be aware the following:
- The tax breaks under the Exigency Order only apply to the following approved islands: Abaco and the Abaco Cays, Grand Bahama Island, Sweetings Cay, Deep Water Cay and Water Cay.
- For the next 30 days, bottled water, clothing, food for personal consumption and personal hygiene products will be duty free and VAT free for individuals and businesses importing these items as donations to registered charities.
- For the next 90 days, medicine and medical supplies, building materials, tents, cots, bedding materials, mosquito nettings, electrical and plumbing fixtures and materials, household furniture, furnishings and appliances, and electrical generators will be duty free and VAT free for individuals and businesses importing these items as donations to registered charities.
- A number of fees will be waived for three-months for non-commercial flights bringing in relief goods in the affect islands, including departure tax, customs processing fees and environmental levy fees.
- There may be a need for items that are not on the approved list. Application may be made to the Ministry of Finance for review to import the same.
She stressed that there is a list of “approved charities/non-profits” on the Department of Inland Revenue’s website, which has been circulated via social media. This is only a list of Bahamian non-profits that are VAT registered. It is not a comprehensive list of registered charities. Ms. Marche added that there is a comprehensive register of charities maintained by the Registrar General. NEMA also has a list of charities that are engaged in disaster relief activities. If there are established charities that are not on a registered list for some reason, NEMA hosts a daily NGO briefing.
“The Exigency Order is not exclusive to charities. All Individuals and businesses can apply to import tax-free goods under the Exigency Order. However, all goods imported under the Exigency Order must be used for charitable purposes by registered charities.” Mrs. Marche said individuals and businesses are eligible to import tax-free goods under the Exigency Order under the following three conditions:
- Imported goods fall under the approved list of items
- The final destination of the imported goods is an approved island
- Imported goods will be used for charitable purposes to support restoration activities directly related to Hurricane Dorian or by individuals who have directly suffered hardship or loss as a result of Hurricane Dorian.