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Greater Tunapuna Chamber predicts higher gas prices
The Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce has predicted that the first issue the Government is likely to address in the 2012-2013 budget is the gas subsidy. “The population may have to pay more for gas as the Government could no longer bare the burden of subsidising gas,” said president Taran Singh. He said the issue of the gas subsidy has been on the front burner for a very long time and previous governments have not been able to address the issue.
“So, for the sake of the economy, the price of gas may increase.” The Government in the 2011 budget proposed the development of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a major alternate vehicular fuel and introduce a number of fiscal incentives for CNG users. The Government also announced its intention to establish seven CNG stations throughout T&T and convert PTSC buses to CNG use, but these projects are yet to come off the ground.
During the Caribbean Forum at the Hyatt Trinidad Regency hotel on Tuesday, Finance Minister Larry Howai announced that the Government would be introducing austerity measures in the 2012/2013 budget. Singh said the Government may also re-introduce the land and building tax and increase corporation taxes. “Businesses may have to pay more in taxes.”
Plans for new property taxes were halted in 2010 after People’s Partnership Government assumed office. Its coalition partner, the Congress of the People, had successfully staged an Axe the Tax campaign leading up to the election. In 2011, the Government also had an amnesty on land and building taxes, but since then, former Finance Minister Winston Dookeran hinted there would have been an introduction of the property tax.
“These are some of the areas may impact on the population, Singh stated. While Singh said he is in support of the austerity measures, he is hoping that the Finance Minister's measures are not too harsh. He believes if the economy has to recover in the next two to three years, the necessary sacrifices have to be made now. “Things are tough globally since the financial meltdown and there has been very little recovery. We cannot continue the way we are going. Sacrifices must be made.”
Singh said given the situation globally and locally, one would have expected this budget to be tough. “While there may be “cutbacks” in the budget, the Government would still continue with some of it incentives especially in agriculture,” Singh said. “We cannot continue to maintain an annual food import bill of $4 billion.”
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