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A Bill amending the Tourist (Duty Free) Shopping System Act, which allows persons arriving at the international airports to make duty free purchases on their arrival into the country, was passed in the Senate on Friday July 23.
Attorney General, Minister of Justice and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the Bill, explained that the amendment was in keeping with Government’s policy of encouraging increased tourist arrivals and spending.
“The multiplier effect on the economy cannot be ignored. The idea of arrival duty free shopping is not a new one, and the Airport Authority of Jamaica has been pursuing this aspect of tourism since the early 1990s. Further, the Caribbean region has established an on arrival shopping duty free system,” Senator Lightbourne explained.
She added that the main purpose of the amendment was to offer arriving visitors, as well as arriving residents, the option to defer duty free purchasing until their arrival at airports in Jamaica. The duty free industry worldwide, in 2002, was valued at US$20 billion, she said.
In addition, Senator Lightbourne noted that the Bill sought to revise the penalties associated with the operation of duty free shops, to ensure that the holder of a duty free operations licence had sufficient resources to carry out his operations, and to provide for the removal of certain restrictions on the number of display centres in the parish in which the licensed duty free shop was situated.
Approved goods for sale in duty free shops include: binoculars; electric calculators; leatherwear; sunglasses; loose gem stones; watch straps, watch bracelets and other watch accessories; video cameras; designer clothing; optical frames; and children clothing.
Leader of Opposition Business, Senator A.J. Nicholson, said that tourist interests had described the amendments as “progressive”.
“They say that it is progressive, because it provides meaningful linkages in the industry. It is also a push for the entrepreneurial spirit and they say it is going to assist in the development of local products in the niche market,” he said.
He also noted that arrival duty free shopping would also contribute important revenue for both international airports, as “this will help to pay for the investments undertaken in the modernisation programme”.
“The main task is to prepare an operational manual to allow for transactions to be undertaken in an automated system, for codification of the procedures and to move away from the heavy dependence on discretion in interpreting and applying the rules,” Senator Nicholson said.
In addition, he also recommended that some of the items on the approved duty free lists should be rationalised, to reflect the vast changes in consumer products, tastes and spending patterns.
In response, Government Senator, Kamina Johnson Smith, noted that amendments would be made to the list of approved items.
“I am very pleased to assure this House that the Honourable Minister has already charged the Tax Policy Division with an amendment to the Schedule, to remove the items to which you have referred to and update them in language that is technologically neutral and, accordingly, will move with the times and not require this House, at each instance that an MP3 changes to an MP4, to revisit the legislation,” she said.
The amendment was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday July 13.