NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Abaconians are still very much in “survival mode”, according to Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton, who noted that while the pace of reconstruction on the island has certainly picked up, it is still “nowhere near where it should be”.

Hutton told Eyewitness News that the current pace of reconstruction has been impacted in large part by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re just really hunkered down and focused on rebuilding Abaco,” he said.

“Not a lot of energy is being spent on big picture items. We’re still in survival mode very much. We’re just getting stuff done that needs to get done. Were just getting on with it.”

Last week, Cabinet announced the approval of an expansion of tax relief measures under the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) initiative for areas ravaged by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.

While the SERZ Extension Order approved in December provided tax relief on the local sale and importation of construction supplies, the latest order renders these activities value-added-tax-free within the zone until June 30, 2021.

Under the latest order, replacement vehicles must be purchased and shipped prior to January 31, 2021, representing a one-month extension, and arrive in The Bahamas by April 30, 2021.

Hutton said such relief is important to the island’s overall recovery.

“I think it is very important. There are still some questions that we are trying to get ironed out,” he said.

“We just need some additional clarification on things as it relates to businesses license fees and whether they are retroactive through 2020.

“There are also a few things not included on the VAT (value-added tax) and duty exemption list, such as the things like air conditioners and mattresses. We need some clarity on that.

“They did extend the time on the importation of vehicles. I just hope that it’s long enough.”

Hutton added: “The pace of construction has certainly picked up compared to where it was in March and April, but it’s still not where it should be. I believe that is more a function of the global pandemic.

“If we are able to get through this, I am very confident that things will begin to pick up.”

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