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Duty-free ease

Mike King

Duty-free ease

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DUTY-FREE concessions will be extended to more returning nationals from next month, with Government removing the minimum age and paving the way for those under 50 to benefit.Acting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made this declaration yesterday at the Inaugural Diaspora Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.Before an audience that included Cabinet ministers, members of the Senate and a host of high commissioners and consuls general, Stuart said the programme was being expanded beyond the traditional retirees to encompass younger Barbadian entrepreneurs with marketable skills and viable business initiatives.This is one of the significant changes that is being made to what is now called the Returning Nationals Policy, but will be known as the Barbados Network Programme.“A Barbadian national who is a citizen by birth, descent, registration or naturalisation will qualify for the programme once he was continuously resident abroad for ten years immediately prior to resettlement,” he said.To much applause, the Acting Prime Minister noted that the requirement that a Barbadian by descent or marriage must have resided at least 183 days in Barbados prior to emigrating in order to be eligible under the programme would be removed.Stuart said the qualifying period for annual Barbados Network Renewal status under the programme would however be increased from three to five years, to help reduce the incidence of abuse, especially in respect of the motor vehicle concessions.Stuart said amendments were being drafted to Part 2B of the Customs tariff to eliminate the administrative bureaucracy associated with the importation of personal effects and motor cars.These amendments will empower the Comptroller of Customs to grant automatic exemptions from the payment of import duties and taxes to those returnees whose eligibility has been appropriately certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Stuart said that similar exemptions would be incorporated into the Value Added and Environmental Levy Acts.“It is expected that these legislative changes will significantly reduce the processing time for the granting of these concessions, which I know has been one of the biggest irritants for those who access the programme,” Stuart said.He added that Government also recognised there were a large number of overseas Barbadians who did not plan to return to Barbados, but who were keen to make financial investments in the country.To this end, Government had directed the Ministry of Finance to provide advance information to all missions on the dates of forthcoming offerings “so that these can be widely promoted to allow for real time access by overseas nationals through the Foreign Affairs and Central Bank websites”.