Six months after Government announced the establishment of duty-free zones in The City and other tourism hotspots across the island, private sector interests are yet to come forward to take advantage of the programme, says Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.
Making the announcement of the planned duty-free zones in his August 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had said the zones would provide duty-free shopping for Barbadians and visitors alike.
“We have already identified some areas where this could happen, including our capital City of Bridgetown, Holetown, Hastings/Worthing on the South Coast and at the two main ports of entry in Barbados,” Sinckler said at the time.
Provision was made for this to happen through the Duties, Taxes and Other Payments (Exemption) Act, Cap 67B, the Tourism Development Act, Cap 341 (TDA) and the Special Development Areas Act, Cap. 237A(SDA) with Sinckler promising to establish a special committee to review the initiative with a directive to report its findings and recommendations to him within three months so that a firm proposal could be brought to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy for review before it could be forwarded to the entire Cabinet for approval.
Asked to provide an update on the programme during his media conference on Monday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Sealy said he had expected the private sector to “run away” with the benefits provided under the SDA, but reported that this was not the case.
“Certainly nothing has been brought to my attention that anyone has planned to take advantage of the duty-free zones. The Ministry of Finance only recently had asked a question about that, where it is going. It has been publicly announced,” said Sealy, adding that duty-free shopping was an important part of the island’s tourism offerings.
“Therefore, I think that the duty-free zones [are] something that we can properly take advantage of. There is nothing to stop anybody from setting up a duty free shop. It just requires some capital . . . but I am hoping that people will take advantage of that offering and the SDA as well,” he said, while admitting that there was need for more education on the various Acts and more information on who could access benefits under them.