What do business leaders want in Budget 2023? People-centered policy
Put people first. It is the first item on the TT Supermarket Association’s wish list for the 2023 budget which Finance Minister Colm Imbert presents on September 26.
Its chairman, Rajiv Diptee, said the government should consider how people have been affected by high prices, international shocks and the socio-economic effects of the covid19 pandemic.
“The administration needs to carefully consider how the population has been affected in terms of income and purchasing power, and this will have an impact on the broader inflation that is already being felt. We call for careful moderation in public interest where these decisions must be made.”
Diptee said the post-covid19 world is dominated by sky-high energy prices in petrochemical markets and lingering worries of people turning to a life of crime to cope with financial pressures.
“Mechanisms must be maintained to ensure that assistance and grants are available as social safety nets to protect these most vulnerable families and individuals. Crime, in particular, must be tackled by recognizing that the business community continuously operates in an environment of uncertainty, insecurity and fear.”
He added that attention should be paid to the Firearms User License (FUL) application process as a means of protection.
“Instead of an effective response system by the police department, consideration should be given to expediting existing FUL requests with the required initial training and subsequent assessments. We also believe that crime should be dealt with more directly by creating tougher penalties and deterrents for offenders, as violent crime has increased alarmingly Crime is also impacting the deterrence of local entrepreneurs and foreign investment, where the cost of security, especially , remains one of the costliest items in operations.
Diptee said the biggest issue is food security because of the many pressures that contribute to high prices.
“Hopefully some of the input cost pressures in the supply chain will ease over the coming year, but that depends on developments in Europe and China and their impact on supply chains.
He said the agricultural investment forum and expo held in Port of Spain in August reflected useful synergies for local producers locally and regionally.
“We want this to be expanded in the budget allocation for agriculture as the sector receives priority. Any impact on fuel prices and upward adjustments to tariffs and utilities can create inflationary pressures for a population that is just recovering from the pandemic”.
TT’s American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) meanwhile hopes that accelerating the digital transformation of operations in the country will bring a sense of economic recovery and growth.
“This will require the implementation of the Digital Policy and Data Interoperability Framework to enhance innovation and develop solutions to support service delivery to citizens. We are aware that the Department of Digital Transformation has strived to increase its internal capacity and set the stage for what we hope will be a year of delivery, as the government has repeatedly committed to these initiatives,” said Nirad Tewarie, CEO of Amcham.
He added that he expects to see clear objectives, progress reports that can contribute to the improvement of the business sector and activities that will result in the improvement of the quality of life of people in TT . He said priority should be given to the National Institute of Statistics (INS) and its resources to fill gaps in data collection and improve the decision-making process on economic issues. The INS would be a restructured Central Statistical Office with the necessary elements to ensure the dissemination of accurate information.
“The Prime Minister recently announced that the government will table the NSI Bill in Parliament during this session. We urge the opposition to support it and, if there are any shortcomings in their view, to identify them clearly so as to that there can be a meeting In the latter case, we hope that the government will meaningfully engage the opposition and other stakeholders to reach a consensus so that the INS can be operational in the first half of 2023 . “
In line with the theme of digitization, Tewarie said that to improve the ease of doing business, there should be the implementation of a fully automated customs process.
He said: “(This can be done) by ensuring functional integration with TTBizLink, increasing the use of the Automated Customs Data System (ASYCUDA) platform, rearranging customs opening hours, including tackling unnecessary overtime and redesigning locations to increase efficiency at airports and seaports.”
“Amcham also recommends that Customs fully implement and use the ASYCUDA risk assessment module to avoid long delays for shipments; re-implement the 2011 clearance procedure for commercial shipments worth $20,000 or less with no entry; and set the de minimis value at $400 to ensure a much more efficient system that would lead to increased collection of much needed revenue.”
Tewarie also calls for standard operating procedures to be placed in each port to avoid ambiguity, reduce delays and prevent opportunities for corruption. He said he would like to see concrete steps to deal with the effects of corruption and that the government should make sure to strengthen the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and appoint a director of public prosecutions for the unit.
“We also believe that the government should support research and development in private companies by allocating a deduction of 75% of working capital used to support innovation against tax on taxable income, up to a limit of 2% of a company’s annual turnover over the previous year. This has the potential to improve competitiveness and export capacity while simultaneously increasing jobs.”
TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce President Charles Pashley said that in addition to economic recovery, stability and growth, strong policy initiatives to attract local and foreign investment should be considered . He also referred to fully automated customs processes and added that there should be an expansion of electronic tax payment that allows online payments under $100,000.
Pashley added: “We note that the government has provided the Small and Medium Enterprise Loan Guarantee which has been very well taken up following the criteria review in 2021. Going forward we recommend that the guarantee support be focused on loans specific to digitization, information and communications technology updates and innovation.”
He said he also wanted to see more support for the entertainment sector by offering industry producers 50% off fees for using facilities and public places for cultural events and parties until at the end of 2023. He said this could help the sector recover from the losses suffered during the covid19 shutdowns.
“More partnerships with the private sector, as the carnival events and groups performed by the private promoters have generated strong demand from tourists and are generating foreign exchange. Measures related to the development of the Carnival product should be established.”
Pashley said the chamber is also looking forward to the TT Tax Authority Act (TTRA) being fully operational as it aims to improve taxpayer compliance and minimize revenue loss.
“The TTRA is designed to provide a significant increase in revenue collection to any administration of government, in billions of dollars. Priority must be given to reforming the tax administration system to achieve equity in the tax net. “
He added: “A revision of the 6% industrial property tax so that it applies strictly to the physical property and not to the installed cost of plant, machinery and equipment within or outside The introduction of a business income tax will become a serious impediment to new investment at a time when the focus is on creating an environment conducive to business growth.”
The Green Fund Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Planning and Development was established to provide financial assistance to eligible community groups and organizations for activities related to reforestation, sanitation, environmental education and public awareness of environmental issues and environmental conservation. Pashley said the balance is now approaching $8 billion and should be used to provide seed capital or grants to start-ups and SMEs whose operations contribute to a cleaner sustainable environment.