Government is pressing ahead with plans for the establishment of proposed duty-free zones on the island.
However, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler Thursday sounded a warning that only select items will be available in the zones, which will be tightly regulated.
“You will enter the free zone under certain conditions; you will be able to make those purchases similar to what we do now in the duty-free sector in town, but far greater controls are going to be put in place . . . ,” Sinckler said in a statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service.
Sinckler, who had announced in last month’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that the creation of duty-free zones would earn and save the country foreign exchange, also acknowledged that there were still some areas to be worked through in terms of how the duty-free zones would operate “to ensure there was no disruption in the existing systems, or any discrimination or undue advantage of one set of members of the business community over another”.
However, he said he remained hopeful that visitors, especially those from the Caribbean, would consider Barbados as a destination they could visit to do cost-effective shopping.
A special committee is due to be established shortly, which will review the duty-free zones initiative and report its findings and recommendations to Sinckler within three months of its creation, so a firm proposal could be taken to Cabinet for approval.
The committee is to comprise representatives of the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Central Bank of Barbados, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Private Sector Association of Barbados. It will have the right to co-opt any other person or parties considered necessary in assisting it to carry out its mandate.
Some of the areas identified for duty-free zones are Bridgetown, Holetown, Hastings/Worthing and the two main ports of entry. It is hoped that Bridgetown would be ready for this type of business by December.