Chamber of Industry and Commerce responds to Budget Review

Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 20:00

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce has issued the following response to the Government's Mid-Year Budget Review today:

"The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce recognises that the Honourable Minister of Finance, in his mid-year review, spent significant time treating with the fiscal imbalance occasioned by the precipitous slide in energy prices. Consequently, he underscored the negative impact on the local economy and forex shortage.

As important as this was, we sense a subtle but potentially significant shift in the Minister’s acknowledgement of the need to prepare the groundwork for the more important long-term transformation of the local economy. 

This transformation is essential if we are to diversify the economy away from its dependence on the energy sector.

We fully support the call for the Board of Inland Revenue to be more agile; but in this simple appeal lies a need for total transformation of the public service in areas including accountability, productivity and the use of technology. 

This objective will require fundamental changes in service delivery throughout the public sector. Each minister is now challenged, therefore, to take up the mantle of championing institutional reform.

The Minister recognises that business confidence is critical to providing expanded revenue to the economy, thereby ensuring the Government’s ability to meet its financial commitments, including those to the more vulnerable in society. 

We expect that the cap on the fluctuation in the exchange rate of not more than 7% over the September 2015 rate will have the desired effect of removing uncertainty and encouraging local business investment.

The T&T Chamber is particularly interested in the incentives for Agro Processing and Manufacturing. 

This is welcome news for our business community in Tobago in particular. The manufacturing sector is an important component to economic diversification, however, we call for greater emphasis to be placed on the development of the services sector which is central to our overall competitiveness.

As stated previously, the T&T Chamber is in full support of buying local, with a view to assisting our productive sector.

As a consequence, the Government’s channelling of URP workers into agriculture is wholly welcomed.

While the increase in super and diesel prices by 15% has the potential to affect the cost of living through increased transport costs, we note the Minister’s intention to offer incentives by May to taxis and maxi taxis, as well as the expansion of the public transportation fleet. 

This is intended to soften the impact on the more vulnerable. We call for the speedy implementation of those measures, as the fuel price changes go into immediate effect.

The T&T Chamber will continue its efforts in collaborating with the Government and all key stakeholders to ensure that we achieve our stated goals of emerging successfully from the prevailing crisis."