The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce has mixed reactions to the 2019/2020 budget.
The Chamber said while it was pleased Finance Minister Colm Imbert took note of some of its recommendations there were however, a number of recurring items from previous budgets, such as the Revenue Authority, which reflected the implementation challenges.
“Based on the lost tax revenue we believe the administration must find a way to broaden the tax net with the current infrastructure, if the Revenue Authority is not implemented in 2020,” the Chamber said.
It added efforts to allow for more active participation by the private sector in the development of the industrial parks and the tax credit for market development to build the next tier of exporters are welcome initiatives. “Registered farmers too, will be glad for the incentives which were identified,” the Chamber added.
It said the various housing programmes, once properly administered, can have a significant impact to accelerate access to home ownership, benefit small contractors, generate construction activity, create additional employment and perhaps even have an impact upon crime.
“While we are heartened by the Minister’s attempt to deal with lower income earners, we are concerned about the potential impact upon the cost of living and our competitiveness.
“We however welcome the several improvements to the social safety net which the minister outlined for the most vulnerable in society,” the Chamber said.
It said decisions to ban Styrofoam and single use plastics, as well phasing out incandescent light bulbs speak to this country’s commitment to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, to which T&T is signatory.
“The Chamber is pleased the minister has committed to restore the VAT compliance system as originally intended.
“ Our interpretation is that from this point on, as the Act stipulates, payment of refunds will be made within a six month period from the date of filing, failing which interest of 1 per cent per month will be applied,” the Chamber said.
It added that while it recognises the minister’s attempt to deal with the issues of VAT refund it is concerned that the amount of the bond does not address the full arrears.
“While it provides a tradeable instrument, we are concerned that the interest rate is not in keeping with market rates and would translate to a significant shortfall for businesses owed.
“ There is no clarity as to how the interest due on overdue balances will be dealt with,” the Chamber added.
It said it was disappointed that no mention was made of the revocation of the Legal Notice which brought into force the land licensing regime in Tobago.
“Crime continues to be a major deterrent to business activity and profitability in T&T and we have noted the investment in national security.
“We now look forward to a concomitant impact upon the murder rate as we go forward into 2020,” the Chamber noted.