#TurksandCaicos, September 14, 2017 – Providenciales – It is with a grateful heart that we thank Our Lord God for seeing us through during the passage of Hurricane Irma. When we look at how we fared compared to our neighbors who Irma also visited, we can indeed say the TCI is blessed, and must continue to give thanks and praise.
I’ve had an opportunity to visit with residents in Leeward and Long Bay before and after the passage of Hurricane Irma. Many of my neighbors fared as well as can be expected with a storm of that magnitude, but there are a great number of them whose homes look well and fine from the outside but inside tells a very somber and different story. The one common thread in Leeward and Long Bay is that we are ready to rebuild. To my excitement, when I read TCIG were proposing a Concession Order also known as a “tax holiday” on materials and goods for rebuilding, I shared the news with my constituents.
While I am grateful that a “tax holiday” will be provided in the Turks & Caicos Islands for the importation of goods and materials to assist in the rebuilding exercise, I must express my concerns and lobby the Government on behalf of the People of Leeward and Long Bay and the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands to extend the “tax holiday” for a further month.
As it stand now the Concession Order as written, provides a list of items that can be imported and benefit from the “tax holiday”. The list is extensive, and for that we are grateful as Hurricane Irma, left more than structural damage in her wake. The reality is rebuilding for many of us, stems further than lost shingles and roof tiles, but also we have seen extensive damage to furniture, clothes, books, office and home supplies and appliances due to water and wind damage. My greatest concern is the deadline of October 31st 2017 to benefit from the “tax holiday”. Many of my constituents whom I’ve spoken with in relation to the “tax holiday” cannot be in a position to benefit from the “tax holiday” by October 31st 2017.
Whilst duties on imports are a revenue stream for Turks & Caicos Islands Government, and we are in the 3rd quarter where revenue dips, the 4th quarter will occur in the high season with many resorts predicting reopening for the high-season.
Firstly, TCIG Civil Service received an advance on their September salary by 50% in order to prepare for Hurricane Irma. That advance is repayable in the October pay period. Secondly, Private Sector employees will have just 4 weeks’ salary to utilize to purchase goods and materials and have them shipped to the Islands by October 31st 2017 in order to benefit from the “tax holiday”. This is not feasible; many of us had to prepare for Back to School, and then Hurricane Irma, causing savings to take a double hit at one time. Now we are also using the last dollars in savings to make basic repairs to properties and business in case there is a substantial amount of rain over the next few weeks, clean-up post Hurricane Irma costs are mounting for us to attempt to have semblance of a normal life.
Many are still without electricity and will be so for the foreseeable next few weeks, and thus using funds to fuel generators, and or purchasing batteries for fans and flash lights. It should be noted that October 31st 2017 is a mere 6 weeks from now. How is this “tax holiday” going to benefit Islanders, when those that had insurance may not be able to have their payouts processed in time to purchase and ship their goods, and for those without insurance how can they borrow in a time like this?
I urge the Government, to extend this deadline by another month, which would capture a further pay period for Islanders, so that they can rebuild at costs plus freight, and return these beautiful by nature Islands and their lives back to normalcy