President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce, Vishnu Charran, said while some promises were made to alleviate the plight of low-income earners in the 2020/2021 national budget, that is going to be taken away with increased food prices and the implementation of the property tax in 2021.
“The livelihoods of people are still going to be challenged in 2021 and they have to remain cautious. It’s a promising budget but in light of the pandemic people are still going to have to be cautious about managing their spending. A tax break was given for people working for $7,000 and under a month.
“However, that’s going to be taken away by the increases in food prices and the implementation of the property tax next year. I hope the minister is going to be lenient in the rolling out of the property tax so it will not have a big impact on people,” he told the Express yesterday after Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s presentation of the 2020/21 budget at the Parliament Chamber in Port of Spain.
Charran said the Supermarkets Association has already been warning about increasing food prices because of the increase in prices from suppliers.
He added the country is also still in a “Covid season” and there’s a lot of uncertainty among the business sector about survival.
“Economic activity is depressed right now and it is going to be like that for next year.
“Every sector you talk to tell about decreased business activity. Everybody still has to be cautious.”
Commenting on some of the promises made in the budget he said more opportunities will be created for young people in the tech sector.
“We welcome that.”
He said the provision of more affordable housing for the lower-income groups is also welcome. But he added, “These things take a long while to roll out.”
Another good thing in the budget he said was the promise to open up 45,000 Internet hotspots all over T&T, especially in outer areas.
“There’s a lot of incentive for the tech-savvy generation.”
Good news too was that citizens will not have to pay Valued Added Tax on cellphones and mobile devices next year.
“It will become less expensive and people will be able to get their devices easier.”
Praise for $500m for agriculture
Charran said he also liked the emphasis placed on agriculture and increasing food production.
“I’m waiting to see, however, if the Minister of Agriculture, through the Agricultural Development Bank, will provide loans for investment in agriculture.”
He said the major problem for farmers right now is praedial larceny.
“I don’t think saying you’re going to increase the fine for praedial larceny is going to solve the problem.
“Zoning farmers in selected secure areas will also help.
President of the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce, Ramchand Rajbal, said he’s waiting to see how properties will be evaluated before he makes any pronouncement on the introduction of the property tax next year.
He also welcomed the $500 million additional allocation to agriculture, as well as the tax break given to low income earners.
“The allocation to agriculture has been increased to $1.19 billion and I think that’s very good.”
Replacing the Board of Inland Revenue with the Revenue Authority to make tax collection more efficient was another thing he’s waiting to see materialise, Rajbal said.
“This has been on the agenda for a very long time and they will need Opposition support for that.”
He said the incentives given to business people in the construction and energy sectors were promising.