NASSAU – When it meets Tuesday, Cabinet may consider introducing and implementing a special tax to help finance Hurricane Matthew repair and recovery efforts, Prime Minister Perry Christie said Monday.
If implemented, such a tax may be imposed in a way that has a “minimal impact on people”, he added.
His statement came as he and other government officials toured areas in New Providence that were hard hit by the storm, many of which remain without power and will continue to do so for some time because of the floods they suffered.
Christie said: “We have to give serious consideration to a more effective way of financing the loss that the country has experienced because we’re also paying now for Hurricane Joaquin and it may well be that we have to give consideration to a selective approach to raising money by taxing some item that would be of minimal impact on people. But it’s a matter we have to look at because it’s an enormous challenge to the country. We’ve been faced with downgrading. This is not an easy situation. We thought the way was clear with Baha Mar. But now we have Hurricane Matthew.”
Christie previously talked about the government’s intention to create a $150 million Hurricane Reconstruction Bond that would assist people, as well as small and medium sized businesses impacted by the hurricane and to help accelerate reconstruction efforts.
“The options to a government is to initially find the money as quickly as possible even knowing it wouldn’t be enough,” he said Monday.
Christie also announced that Urban Renewal 2.0 will be expanded to strengthen recovery efforts.
Currently existing in only 11 constituencies, the programme will expand to the other constituencies in New Providence to help authorities gain command of the issues affecting residents and to provide fast response to their needs.
Christie said: “Because Urban Renewal is only in 11 areas this means we have to create new entities, whole new bodies of people led by the police force to ensure accountability, fairness and that we reach the people we want to reach.
“As these teams go out, they will be expanded on the basis of needs and will be reporting to each of the members of parliament and to the country and will be reporting on the basis of what they find with immediate effect,” he continued.
“Out of courtesy to members of parliament, we want them to see who the police officers are, choose them so to speak so that no one could feel we’re imposing things on them. The idea is to have a team constituted with a leader, a police officer, social workers, an environmental health worker and whatever else we need and an MP would be able to recommend someone on that team so that he has the total confidence in what is taking place. What we expect is to have the necessary information that would enable us not to miss anyone and not to miss people who are truly challenged.”
Christie, joined by Hurricane “czar” Shane Gibson, Southern Shores MP Kenred Dorsett, Golden Isles MP Michael Halkitis, NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell and other officials, toured areas as residents often told him harrowing stories about what happened when they remained home in coastal areas during the storm.
The consensus among those residents was that they would obey future evacuation warnings, even as the government now moves to make such evacuations mandatory.
As clean up efforts continue, residents said they are eager for electricity to be restored in their areas.
For many in the southern areas, this means that on top of having Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) fix broken poles and deal with downed lines, a certified electrician will have to verify when their home can have its electricity restored.