A senior banker is calling for the removal of taxes on relief supplies, as well as a “relaxation” in immigration policies in order to make it easier for companies to provide assistance to hurricane battered regional countries.
Director of Property Services at CIBC FirstCaribbean Errol Wallace explained that his company recently encountered difficulties as it attempted to get relief supplies to its workers in some hurricane-battered territories.
He said while the bank was able to make special arrangements to get goods as well as relief workers into these countries, it was not a seamless process.
Therefore, he suggested that some form of “automatic” status should be given to those providing assistance so that they can enter without paying duties on the relief items.
“I don’t think you should have any taxation on relief supplies,” Wallace told Barbados TODAY, on the sidelines of a recent Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry risk management event, held under the theme, Reduce the Risk, Raise the Response.
“I think it should be automatic. It is a national disaster and everybody knows it is happening [so] once you can demonstrate who you are and where you are going, you should not have a problem,” he said.
While pointing out that regional disaster relief agencies were not always able to quickly reach every affected area following a major disaster, Wallace said it was important for governments to recognize
the significance of assistance from private firms.
“I think there is a system in place for CDEMA [Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency], but not all the supplies will come through CDEMA. CDEMA is concentrated on the country’s needs, but there are individual pockets that need assistance quickly and therefore the regional authorities need to recognize that things that are coming in for assistance, communities and individuals, need to be relaxed to allow those things to happen.
“In addition, people who are coming in to assist in those recovery efforts, I think it is ridiculous to have people going through a process of tight screening when you know where they are coming from [and] you know where they are going.
“Putting up barriers for border control at that time is probably not the best thing to do,” Wallace stressed.
Following the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria last September, FirstCaribbean donated close to a million dollars to associations that were providing humanitarian relief in affected countries.
Like other organizations, that bank was also instrumental in providing aid to its staff and the wider population in several hard-hit countries.
Wallace said while he understood the reasoning behind maintaining strict immigration screening to prevent people from doing “things that are not necessarily savoury”, authorities should recognize the risk associated with not being able to get relief to people fast enough.
“There has to be a regional dialogue and understanding in those situations,” he said.
“I understand the risk. The risk is that there are going to be persons who will take advantage of those things for ill. I am quite understanding of those situations, but if you can understand who is coming, where they are going, that is all you need to know because you are the one with a disaster,” Wallace insisted.