By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A "virtual bonded warehouse" concept is being "fine tuned" to facilitate the importation of duty free goods under the Over-the-Hill Economic Empowerment Zone initiative, the project's lead executives have confirmed.
Kemie Jones, project manager, told Tribune Business: "We are still fine tuning exactly how this mechanism is going to work. Conceptually we are thinking that it may not be a physical warehouse but a virtual warehouse. The idea behind it is similar to what happens in Freeport - you have a warehouse with some items duty free and some items that are duty paid. Vendors can pull down on different inventory depending on who the person is and whether they qualify or not."
Mr Jones added: "Persons who live in the zone - upon application and approval if they meet certain criteria - then they would be able to participate and get the duty concessions when they import the items. The long-term strategy is that as we continue rolling out the programme in other areas you can have local vendors where you can go and purchase items from and get a credit there for the duty already paid. This is something NEMA would have done in the past and we are looking at the very same concept."
According to the Economic Empowerment Zone Bill, businesses in good standing within the zone, which encompasses Nassau Street to Poinciana Drive, Wulff Road, and upwards to the western area of Collins Avenue, would be given a certificate of trade and could receive a business licence fee waiver if they make less than $5m a year, customs duties waivers on the importation of commercial vehicles strictly for business usage and exemptions from excise taxes.
Property developers would be issued a certificate of development and would be exempt from real property taxes, excise taxes, stamp duties and customs duties on materials needed for construction of buildings and structures. The legislation also provides for stiff penalties such as persons being fined twice the value of exemptions given and jail time for fraud.
According to the legislation now passed, businesses behind on National Insurance Board contributions, business license fees and real property taxes will not be granted concessions through the Over-the-Hill revitalisation programme.
According to NIB data, there are over 2,000 registered businesses, with 33 percent being in the retail sector. Some 11,400 people are employed in this inner city area.