By anguillian February 5, 2018 12:37



On Tuesday, January 30, the Anguilla House of Assembly approved a Motion, introduced by Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr. Victor Banks, to extend the concessionary period for the importation of building materials and other supplies following the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

“My Speaker, I rise to introduce the following Motion,” Mr. Banks began his address:

“BE IT RESOLVED that this House approves the Customs Duty Exemption Hurricane Irma Relief (Amendment) Regulations 2018.
“Those regulations are made by the Governor-in-Council under Section 1 (b) of the Customs Act and the principal amendment, to those regulations, to the Customs Duty Exemption Hurricane Irma Relief No. 2 Regulations 2017. The amendment is to amend section 2 of those regulations by deleting the words ‘31st December 2017’ and replacing them with 31st of March 2018.”
The Chief Minister explained that when the Motion first came to the House it was to cover duty free exemptions and relief until the 31st of December 2017.

He continued: “At that time, when we raised the issue, we were aware of the fact that because of various logistics and so forth it might be difficult for everybody to meet their requirements for benefiting from the duty exemptions by the 31st of December. There were issues of transportation and shipping, ordering and the availability of materials, given the situation of Hurricane Irma in the region – as well as persons were waiting for insurance to begin and finding ways and means to restore their homes and businesses. A number of persons indicated that since December 31st it was a challenge for them to meet those deadlines and therefore benefit from this relief concession that the Government made to the general public.

“Mr. Speaker, this is fulfilling the commitment we made that after December 31st we would look at it again. So we are looking at it again, and extending it to the 31st of March, 2018, in order for persons to avail themselves of this concession to continue in the recovery and rebuilding of their homes, businesses and other properties in 2018 which will be a challenging year for all of us. Despite the constrains of the budget, the Government has seen it fit to further extend this exemption to the benefit of the people of Anguilla as they move forward exercising their resilient spirit, and their willingness to build better and stronger for the kind of weather events that continue to visit us in this part of the world.”

Chief Minister Banks added: “Mr. Speaker, I commit this Motion to the House and I seek the support of my colleagues on both sides of the House in addressing this important matter.”
Opposition Leader, Ms. Palmavon Webster, reminded the Speaker that she had requested the Government to extend the concessionary period for a year. She said it was clear to all Anguillians, friends of Anguilla such as villa owners, and persons still awaiting insurance, who “were asking for the period to be extended for at least twelve months.”

“Ms Webster went on: “I remember, Mr. Speaker, that the Honourable Chief Minister said then that the Government would look at it again in the context, I believe, as somebody hinted, that it might have been to do with the negotiations on the budget. Maybe that is the case, but the reality, Mr. Speaker, is that every time, in this country, when we can’t settle a plan, where everything is uncertain and unstable, when our people have to leave, having no clue what is going to happen in their country, it is all linked and can be traced to the lack of planning and effective decision-making on the part of this Government.”
In climaxing her argument, the Opposition Leader stated in part: “I am going to ask the Honourable Chief Minister to consider extending the period again for twelve months. In other parts of the Caribbean, Mr. Speaker, they immediately said 18 months, two years. That is the standard in some of the other OECS territories but the truth is that many, many of our people, who suffered the most devastating damage, have no income whatsoever to be able to replenish themselves. I think that the Honourable Chief Minister should put himself in the position of those persons who are still hurting but, on top of it, are uncertain as to what the future holds for Anguilla and for them.”

Replying, the Chief Minister said, among other things: “Mr. Speaker, I went through the period in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, with my colleagues in this Honourable House, the whole Anguillian community and the public service, arguing to get grant support from the British Government to do certain things for this country. We were successful in our strategy, negotiations and approach, to get for the people of Anguilla some 220 million dollars of direct grant aid for projects that we need in the recovery process. This, Mr. Speaker, was unprecedented grant support from the UK Government in the history of Anguilla.

“Along with that grant support, comes responsibility. It is our responsibility to make a clear business case for the projects we will be funding out of that money; a clear business case as to how we will deal with our own finances; and how we are going to put policies in place to support the revenue we need to protect and to provide for the services of the people of Anguilla.”
In view of those areas of responsibilities, and the need to raise customs revenue through imports, the Chief Minister, who is also the Minister of Finance, indicated that it was not possible to further extend the Customs Duty Exemption Hurricane Irma concessionary period beyond the March 31st date.
The Motion was subsequently passed by the House of Assembly when the vote was taken.

By anguillian February 5, 2018 12:37


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