Express Business Filler #1

With budget day approaching, the business community is hoping measures will be announced to ease some of the burdens they have been facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Several business leaders who spoke with the Express yesterday said the measures announced in the upcoming budget could mean the difference between businesses surviving or going under.

The 2020/2021 budget will be read by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on October 5.

The budget is set against a background of Government having to spend hundreds of millions more than it budgeted for in 2020 and a decline in taxes due to the decrease in economic activity and jobs as a result of the pandemic.

Some business leaders are urging Government to implement measures that will ensure business continuity and job protection.

Arima Business Association (ABA) president Reval Chattergoon said the business community has a crucial role to play in economic recovery.

He said the country cannot depend on Government spending alone to boost the economy.

“We must depend on the business entities to do so,” he said. “What the ABA wants to see is more meaningful VAT refunds. Many of our members are still awaiting that. We want to see some sort of taxation ease-up, whether it be by margins, whether it be by deferrals, whether it be by reduction...”

He suggested a reduction in business levy and corporation taxes.

He said this will ensure that businesses can hire more employees and invest in their neighbourhoods.

“We also want to see VAT removed on some items. It will go a long way because consumers will have a little more spending power to their dollar.”

Chattergoon said he also wants to see plans for improving the Arima Borough.

“Arima seems to have been on autopilot for the last five years because representation was lacking. We don’t have some very common services.”

The American Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago (AmCham T&T) also highlighted taxation in its budget recommendations.

“Tax revenue continues to dominate composition and contribution to (Government) total revenue. Therefore, it is critical that the administration and implementation of tax laws are effective and periodically reviewed to ensure maximum revenue collection and that the operation of these laws do not hinder investment,” the business group stated.

“The GORTT continues to struggle with both tax collection and the payment of refunds. Improvements need to be made on both sides of the system.”

Among its recommendations, AmCham T&T called for widening of the tax net by enforcing the existing tax laws for non-compliant businesses, timely settlement of VAT refunds and greater involvement of stakeholders in the re-introduction of the property tax, particularly on industrial property.

The Chamber also called for greater focus on digital transformation as well as proper training and equipment for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to more effectively address crime.

Also speaking with the Express, president of the San Juan Business Association (SJBA) Vivek Charran said this budget will likely be a difficult one for the Government.

“We understand the challenges the Government has. They don’t have an easy task. Despite that we really need some kind of push towards business preservation particularly preservation of small business,” he said.

Charran said such businesses are important to national employment but many are now struggling to survive and have resorted to cutting staff and over time.

He said Government can implement measures that will assist indirectly such as introducing cheaper transport solutions.

“They can look into monetising the bus route, find cheaper transport solutions. This will help in terms of bringing labour into places where jobs are. People are earning less and it the cost of transport becomes more burdensome for them. The further they are, the more they pay in transport to get from where they are to where they work. We need a network of cheaper transport solutions to bring people from areas of low commercial activity to areas of high commercial activity.”

Charran said he wanted to see innovative measures that would improve the ease of doing business with T&T.

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Last week, the Sunday Express looked at the state of contracts between the National Gas Company (NGC) and the plants in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate after the country’s largest producer of methanol, the Switzerland-headquartered Proman group, announced it was idling its M4 and M5000 methanol plants on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate effective immediately.

Political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah has taken the management of NiQuan Energy Trinidad Ltd to task for what he said was its failure to reach out to residents of Marabella following an early morning explosion at its gas-to-liquids plant at Pointe-a-Pierre on Wednesday.

ECONOMIST and former deputy governor of the Central Bank Terrence Farrell is forecasting that the present down phase of the country’s energy sector is going to be terminal, and oil and gas prices will never get back to the highs of the 1980s.

“This down phase of the cycle is going to be much longer, and it is going to be in fact terminal as far as crude oil and natural gas are concerned. If we are looking in the near future for some kind of upswing in respect of oil and gas prices, we will see prices going up a bit, but we are unlikely, in my view, to see prices getting back anywhere near, in real terms, to where they were in 1982,” he said.

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TRINIDAD and Tobago’s newest fast ferry, the Buccoo Reef, arrived at the Port of Port of Spain yesterday.

The vessel and crew will remain in quarantine and travellers will not be able to use the ferry for about a month.

There are also plans to acquire a dedicated cargo ferry.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and chairman of the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) Herbert George were on hand when the 100-metre-long US$72 million vessel slipped into a berth at the Cruise Ship Complex at 3 p.m.