The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce says while it understands the need to limit the fuel subsidy, it is concerned about the impact this will have on inflation and the population at this time.
In a release yesterday the Chamber said while Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented an “optimistic” 2023 national budget, it however, remains reserved about significant impacts on the economy.
The Chamber explained that despite the ongoing socio-economic challenges posed by inflation, which have been heightened with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and geo-political tensions, the windfall revenue has seen the budget deficit reduced to $2 billion, from $9 billion in 2022.
“The estimated $8 billion revenue was derived from the increases to prices of T&T’s main export commodities of oil, natural gas, and ammonia.
“Given the reasonable benchmark for energy commodity prices, several initiatives outlined in the budget such as cashless transactions, infrastructure projects, health, housing, information and communication technology and education kept in line with the budget’s theme ‘Tenacity and Stability in the face of global challenges’.
“Notwithstanding this, the minister announced an increase in fuel prices,” the Chamber explained.
In its response the San Juan Business Association said it is also not particularly pleased with the increase in fuel prices at this time.
“We have been warned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to manage inflation. The knock on effect of this will lead to increased prices to consumers,” the association said.
It added it is also “a bit concerned” with the projection of the oil price at $92.50 per barrel saying, “We need to be careful to not over stretch the projection of the country’s revenue.”
On other areas of concern the association said crime remains out of hand, noting it would have liked to see a greater commitment in the form of investment in training and Closed-circuit television (CCTV) infrastructure nationally.
Additionally, the association said it did not see any commitment to deal with the informal sector for NIB.
“This sector of the economy is continuously being ignored. We also believe increasing the VAT threshold can be counterproductive from the point that the strategy should be to capture more of the informal sector. We need to pay attention to this issue,” the association added.
To bolster exports, it added the international certification programme should be across all industries and not only food and beverage.
Additionally, the association said more attention should be paid to VAT returns adding, “We appreciate the $4 billion payout in 2022 but more still can be done.”