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Community : Service Organizations : GB Chamber of Commerce Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

GB Chamber instructs lawyers to defend the Hawksbill Creek Agreement
By Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce
Feb 6, 2014 - 10:03:12 PM

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Freeport, Bahamas – After months of discussions and meetings, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce licensees have made a decision to go forward with a Judicial Review and instructed their legal council to prepare final submissions on whether the new Budget fees and regulations implemented under the Customs Managements Act, which came into effect July 1, 2103, were lawful under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA).

After having exhausted all other means, the Chamber has been left with no option but to defend itself, its members and the GBPA licensees from the enormous costs that the new 2013 fee/tax structures have created on doing business. “We had hoped that initial reports and based on previous comments by the Prime Minister, that these fees would be reversed, but they have not come to fruition,” said President of the Chamber Barry Malcolm. “We need to defend the constraints of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement that we live under, and our members are demanding action to protect the business model set up in Freeport.”

After much consultation with the businesses in Freeport, it was determined that the 3,500 licensees in the city are mainly concerned about the one per cent Customs administrative processing fee which, given Freeport’s industrial economy and volume of container imports/exports, dramatically increases companies’ costs. “It’s not only the industrial companies that are feeling the pinch, it’s the everyday ‘mom and pop’ stores that are struggling to compete and stay open with these extra costs,” Mr. Malcolm said.

The action will be led by Fred Smith, QC and Callenders & Co., and the Grand Bahama Chamber has secured substantial financial support to proceed. They are still asking for as many businesses and GBPA licensees as possible to join those who have already finicallycommitted and been named in the action.

Malcolm repeated that Freeport is not asking for special treatment “but there is a structured core under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) that lays out how business ought to be treated tax-wise. Our members want this addressed, especially as we must then look at the proposed Value Added Tax legislation and how that works under the HCA, then the 2015 real estate tax review.”

The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce’s current board is actively working to engage the local business community in all they are doing and they will soon release its opinion on the VAT legislation.

The Grand Bahama Chamber will hold its annual Installation Banquet this weekend at the Grand Lucayan, with special guest Mr. Alexander Sokoloff, Political-Economic Specialist, The Embassy of the United States of America, and John Dinkelman, Charge de Affaires, will also be in attendance.

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