Chaguanas Chamber assesses Govt's 1st year in office; makes recommendations for 2017 Budget

Monday, September 5, 2016 - 08:30

The Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce is telling the Government that it doesn't have faith in the "boots on the ground" strategy as a crime-fighting mechanism, in the absence of a high detection rate.

The Chamber is calling on the Government to invest more in the training of officers in detection of crimes.

The following is the Chaguanas Chamber's statement on the Government's first year in office.

"When the newly elected People’s National Movement took on the challenge of governing our country last September 7 2015 they were faced with a peculiar set of circumstances that would have been a serious test for any government.

Foremost amongst those was the downturn in oil prices and the shattering impact on our oil and gas-dependent economy.

The other major concern facing the government and the population was that of the increasing crime rate.

The Chaguanas Chamber of Industry Commerce is of the view that any analysis, rating, ranking or critique of the performance of the Government after one year in office must take these two major issues into consideration.

On the issue of the economy, we are appreciative of the fact that the Government has already begun to show some interest in the diversification of the economy away from full dependence on oil and gas.

The moving of the Ministry of Agriculture from St Clair to Chaguanas is a bold and necessary move and indicative of an interest in working closer with the farmers and food producers of the nation to bring down our food import bill.

We were also pleased to see the opening of the COSTAATT campus in Chaguanas, reflecting a commitment to ongoing education.

While we are hopeful that other, similar moves will take place with the new Budget, the CCIC remains concerned over the abrupt and unannounced drawing down of funds from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund and the failure, so far, of the Government to produce other promised financing to deal with our growing debt.

The CCIC also remains concerned about the difficulties faced by small businesses with the changes in VAT.

These small businesses are faced with a higher threshold for VAT qualification while still paying VAT for their goods and services and this cannot redound well for a country that is seeking to build its small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

We would also like to see some movement on the issue of the proposed E-teck parks for the country.

While three were promised for the Central area we want to strongly recommend that the Government at least consider setting up one of the parks so that it can help stimulate local economic activity.

It is our hope that the Budget plans for the 2017 financial year will reflect better incentives for the growth and scope of business and diversification of the economy so that our stagnating economy can finally get the kick-start that it desperately needs from the Government.

On the issue of crime we are heartened by the recent meeting between the Government and the Opposition but remain cautious as to the follow-up and execution of any agreements reached between the parties.

Successive governments have ‘galleried’ their action plans to deal with rising crime but as we stand today crime is spiraling out of control and containment.

We can no longer speak of ‘hot spots’ in this country as we could one year ago, because crime is hitting every home and every street corner, every seaport and airport.

In Chaguanas we are hoping that Government will finally make the urgent decision to introduce the wide use of CCTV cameras in the borough and ensure that they are connected to the national grid so that we can have some level of monitoring and control.

We also await word from the authorities on the establishment of a Police Post in the Enterprise area so that the law-abiding citizens of that area can find some peace in their community.

The Chamber is of the view that the so-called ‘boots on the ground’ approach to crime is merely a greater expense to taxpayers and is never going to work as long as the detection rate remains below the paltry 10 percent cited by the Police Service.

We urge the Government to use its budgetary allocations for 2017 to have more officers trained in detection and crime scene investigation.

In the past year, the Chaguanas Chamber and other stakeholders in the borough have met with the Transport Minister, the Hon Fitzgerald Hinds, to discuss the contentious issue of traffic in the borough.

We have time and time again pointed out the problems at a number of high traffic areas but are yet to see any concrete plans for the near or distant future.

With the number of businesses and residents coming into Chaguanas every day, we once again urge the Government, one year later, to take a look at the needs of Chaguanas and work with us to improve, the roads, the crime situation, and the overall economy of the area."