Acting?? Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (at podium) is pictured as he delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Inaugural Disapora Conference "Strengthening the Bonds that Unite?? Us" at the?? Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Young Barbadians who are living overseas and plan to return home, are set to reap benefits from September 1 as a result of new policy measures introduced by Government.

This was made clear by acting Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Freundel Stuart, as he delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Inaugural Barbados Network Consultation. It was held today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

The new initiatives follow what Mr. Stuart termed as "a thorough review of the existing package of measures and concessions offered to returning residents to come up with an approved number of changes to make them more responsive to the needs of Barbadians living overseas".

He said: "This will mean that the minimum age will be removed and Barbadians under the age of 50 and returning home will now qualify for duty free concessions." Mr. Stuart pointed out that "this will expand the target group of the programmes beyond the traditional retiree to encompass younger Barbadian entrepreneurs with marketable skills and viable business initiatives".

Furthermore, the acting Prime Minister stated that a Barbadian national who is a citizen by birth, descent, registration or naturalisation, would qualify for the programme "once he was continuously resident abroad for 10 years immediately prior to resettlement".

In addition, Barbadians by descent or marriage who previously had to reside in Barbados for at least 183 days prior to emigrating in order to be eligible for the programme, will no longer have to do so.

Mr. Stuart noted: "The qualifying period for annual Barbados Network Renewal Status under the programmes will, however, be increased from three to five years, to help reduce the incidence of abuse, especially in respect of the motor vehicle concessions.

"The Chief Parliamentary Counsel has been asked to expedite the relevant legislative amendments to reflect these changes. Amendments are also being drafted to Part 2 B of the Customs Tariff which will discontinue the current administrative processes with regard to the importation of personal effects and motor cars and 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.

"Similar exemptions will 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" he disclosed.

The acting Prime Minister explained that his administration was committed to the creation of a welcoming environment for nationals who sought to resettle in Barbados. However, he underscored that this was not the task of Government alone.

??"Much remains to be done to sensitise?? the Barbadian society as a whole as to the significant contribution which our returnees make to our economy and to our foreign exchange earnings, and to counter the unfortunate attitude of resentment and hostility that is too often meted out to them.

"They have earned the concessions that they are granted by Government, and they deserve our respect and support in their efforts at reintegration," Mr. Stuart maintained.

The two-day conference which has as its theme, "Strengthening the Bonds that unite Us," concludes tomorrow. clashley@barbados.gov.bb

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