The Tobago Business Chamber has called for the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on Tobago goods.
“If the 12.5 per cent VAT is removed it will encourage greater investment in Tobago, persons will come and set up businesses or come to retire,” Martin George, Head of the Tobago Business Chamber said in an audio reply to the 2019/2020 budget.
The organisation’s head gave mixed reviews on the budget statement presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday.
He applauded the increase in wages for CEPEP and URP workers but decried inaction on the Foreign Investment Act. The act restricts the acreage of land, the number of shares, debentures and directorship’s non-nationals can hold.
George said he was “disappointed to see the bulk of Tobago’s allocation go towards gratuitous spending” as “90 per cent” of the allocation to Tobago, went to recurrent expenditure.
‘(This) leaves very little left for capital expenditure, infrastructural development and investment in building up the business which will build the capacity of Tobago,” George said.
He said the Government should place greater emphasis on capital expenditure, thereby allowing the private sector to grow and create more jobs.
He said he was happy to see an increase in the minimum wage and an increase in salaries for CEPEP and URP employees by 15 per cent.
He applauded several national initiatives, such as daycare facilities for single mothers and the construction of 6,000 new homes.
George said he hoped Tobagonians are part of the housing initiative.
He was also pleased about the Government’s plan to build a new hospital in Roxborough.
However, he called on Central Government to address the challenges at the Scarborough General Hospital.
He was critical of Government’s inaction on the Foreign Investment Act for Tobago.
“We are calling upon the Minister of Finance we are calling upon the THA to lobby the Government to have that act repealed. With that act repealed you will have an inflow of investment into the island, it’s also going to assist with the foreign investment problem.”
As it relates to interisland travel, he called for better management of the air and sea bridges.
“Make that tourism experience begin from the time you enter the port. They need to provide proper wifi. They need to provide proper restaurants, proper facilities so that people can relax while they are awaiting their ferries,” the chamber head said.