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The Bankers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) views the 2022 national budget’s focus on institutional building, key sectors’ enablement and ongoing social development as critical to the country’s recovery from the financial shocks of Covid-19.

It said improvement in public service efficiency and acceleration of Tobago’s development as outlined in Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s budget on Monday were also crucial for Trinidad and Tobago’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Moreover, attainment of the budget’s objectives in these areas is also necessary for sustainable post-pandemic growth,” BATT, which comprises eight member banks, said in a statement yesterday.

Ease of doing business

BATT said it was encouraged by the Government’s continued investment in the digital economy strategy, including expanding the ambit of e-governance.

“Ongoing digital transformation of the public sector is a welcome measure given its potential to substantially improve public service efficiency and result in cost and time savings, particularly for the business community. To this end, BATT supports the proposed removal of all duties and taxes on computer hardware, software, and peripherals as a means of boosting productivity, enhancing competitiveness, and supporting the country’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” the group of banks said.

In addition, BATT said it was “pleased that Government is seeking to implement digital inclusion initiatives which the banking sector has championed for some time to narrow the digital divide through expansion of TT WiFi, an increase in ICT Access Centres, provision of digital skills training, and delivery of broadband service to underserved communities. These actions will support digital skills development and expand the capacity for small businesses, students, households, and communities to become producers in the digital economy, while more broadly building resilience and facilitating development of rural communities.”

Revenue Authority and SMEs

ICT will no doubt continue to play an important role in the Government’s tax revenue mobilisation efforts, BATT said.

“As such, BATT eagerly looks forward to anticipated improvements in the efficiency of tax revenue administration, including disbursement of VAT refunds, through operationalisation of the Revenue Authority. In addition to enhancing the government’s revenue generation efforts, improved tax administration will also enhance businesses’ cash flow.”

It added: “In seeking to enhance the environment for doing business, the Minister has certainly taken on board industry feedback. We are pleased, therefore, that the Government is committed to creation of a National Statistics Institute, since we feel strongly that data deficiencies in respect of availability and timeliness place effective policy-making at risk, in both the public and private sectors.

“Small business’ fulsome participation in the labour market is a precondition to the country’s economic recovery and we are pleased to see that the financial bridge for hard-hit businesses continues,” BATT noted. “With anecdotal estimates attributing 50 per cent of employment generation to SMEs, stimulating growth in this sector is vital to create jobs, increase productivity and boost income. Support measures such as the finalisation of a Small Business Liquidity Support Facility of $100 Million for the revitalisation of micro and small businesses, managed by credit unions, will directly support SMEs immediately and beyond the pandemic.

Tobago

Many businesses within the hospitality industry in Tobago, including hotels, restaurants and bars, are still struggling and need direct support, BATT stated.

“In this regard financial assistance through the Enterprise Assistance Grant and Enterprise Assistance Loan Programmes, in addition to budgetary allocations for the Tourism Accommodation Upgrade Programme, Hoteliers and Tourism Businesses provide important support where Covid-19 has struck hardest—to women, young people, low-wage workers, and small and medium-sized businesses in hospitality and tourism,” BATT said “Moreover, the allocation of $50 million to the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Support initiative provides targeted sectoral financial assistance to empower the industry for a post-pandemic comeback.”

The bankers added: “BATT believes that the way to expedite the country’s exit from this pandemic is through fiscal and non-fiscal actions as well as partnerships between Government and business.”

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