The T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA)has commended the government for the new legislation governing Special Economic Zones.
Last month, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis announced that the Special Economic Zones will contain special clauses to ensure the highest levels of transparency and the minimisation of corruption.
“Special Economic Zones are areas used by governments to diversify exports, generate foreign exchange, create jobs, plot new policies and approaches and allow more efficient government supervision of infrastructural development, environmental controls and labour standards,” according to the Special Economic Zones policy for T&T by the Trade Ministry.
TTMA president Tricia Coosal says the inclusion of special clauses are a step in the right direction, but there is concern over actual enforcement of the new legislation.
“We are extremely pleased that the Government has included special clauses to ensure transparency and ultimately decrease the amount of illegal goods entering the country. However, we are also mindful that enforcement of the law is not always carried through, and we want to ensure that persons are held accountable for their actions when they are in breach of the existing laws and regulations,” Coosal stated.
The TTMA stated that some of the noteworthy special clauses include the creation of a Special Economic Zone Authority and staggered appointments by those on the SEZ Authority Board and the declaration by each board member if he or she has an actual or pecuniary interest in an operator or enterprise regulated by the Authority.
Coosal stated this is a welcomed inclusion especially as there were no special provisions to monitor these conditions in the previous dispensation.
“In the past, Free Zones and Special Economic Zones have been a haven for illicit traded goods and if the rules are not properly enforced and monitored, there can be dire consequences such as smuggled goods entering the country. These products can be sub-standard and unsafe. Further, illegal entry of such goods may result in the Government being deprived of much needed revenue from taxes,” Coosal stated.
Some of the most illegally traded items in the world are tobacco, alcohol, luxury items such as clothes, handbags, sneakers and shoes, pharmaceuticals, electronics and exotic animals, the TTMA stated.
According to Coosal these items need special levels of attention and enforcement so that criminals recognise there are consequences for their actions.
“As you know, there is a considerable movement of illicit goods in the Caribbean and Latin America and it is steadily increasing. We need the relevant authorities including the Police and Customs and Excise officials to continue to work assiduously to prevent the importation of illegal goods and illicit trade from taking place. This would facilitate legitimate business operators to reap the rewards associated with engaging in fair trade,” she stated.
Coosal said reducing illegal activity in these zones needs the co-operation of enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies as well as engagement with regional and international organisations.