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Passenger arrivals to Tobago inched up slightly by 0.04 per cent from 705,374 last year to 705,647 for the first eight months of 2016, said Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine—when she addressed a recent post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex, Calder Hall.
Davidson-Celestine said of total arrivals for the period this year, 46 per cent came via the domestic air bridge, while 44 per cent used the inter-island fast ferry service. Three per cent were from international flights, and seven per cent from cruise ships. Yacht arrivals accounted for 0.07 per cent. She said passenger arrivals on the inter-island ferry service for the eight-month period January to August was 311,607 compared to 309,570—an increase of 0.6 per cent. This was achieved despite challenges the Port Authority faced with its vessels over the past few months, which resulted in delays and fewer sailings, particularly during the July-August peak period.
Passenger arrivals via the domestic air bridge for the same period decreased by two per cent, down from 334,843 in 2015 to 327,641. Caribbean Airlines currently accounts for almost half (46 per cent) the number of visitors to Tobago.
The Tourism Secretary said there will be a boost in international air services to the island in two months. On November 13, Tobago will welcome another direct flight from Manchester, England, a Thomas Cook Airlines flight (Condor) that operate up to March 19, 2017. This flight will serve northern England.
Another Condor service from Munich will begin on November 12 and will continue until April 22, 2017, serving southeast Germany.
Burmac, a division of Ansa Automotive, sole authorised dealer for Hyster in the Caribbean, recently unveiled its new H450HD truck during a handover to Dumore Enterprises Limited.
Dumore is a leading provider of oilfield and industrial supplies, vehicle rental, auto repair, transportation, heavy equipment and civil works services to the oil and gas sectors in T&T.
The H450HD truck outperforms the competition in fuel efficiency and productivity. It offers extensive options, proven dependability, ease of serviceability and a lower total cost of ownership.
The Hyster portfolio offers a comprehensive range of material handling equipment which is available for viewing at Ansa Motors Chaguanas.
Colombian companies are interested in importing T&T spices and other food items based on a presentation done by a Trinidadian chef at a food festival in the Colombian city of Barranquilla in August, said Paul Ghany, executive director of the Colombian/T&T Chamber of Commerce.
“The spices at this moment are the Indian spices such as curry, geera, that Chef Raymond Joseph used in his presentations. Also the local pepper sauces: scorpion pepper sauce and tamarind sauces. The drinks at this moment are mostly Trinidad rum,” he said.
Sabor Barranquilla featured six foreign chefs and ten Colombians. The Colombian/T&T Chamber of Commerce, in association with the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association, selected Chef Joseph to represent T&T at the event where he prepared two dishes that reflected the country’s diverse cuisines and cultures.
Joseph is head chef at the Couyrtyard Mariott Hotel in Port-of-Spain.
Ghany said Colombians in other industries are interested in doing business with T&T.
It was the first time that an English-speaking country participated in Sabor Barranquilla which attracted more than 25,000 people over a three-day weekend. Ghany said Joseph’s performance created a stir.
“Local newspapers and magazines reported that this year Sabor Barranquilla brought a surprising taste and flavour from T&T to the event. Visitors were enthusiastic to learn more about T&T, its culture and food. Event organisers have already extended the invitation for T&T to participate in Sabor Barranquilla’s 10th Anniversary next year. They hope T&T will send more chefs to participate at this event.”
He said this builds economic ties between the two countries and creates further business opportunities.
“At the event, local companies approached the Chamber inquiring about selling Trinidad spices and drinks in Colombia. As well, the Chamber received requests from local companies about importing and exporting products in other industries”
This comes on the heels of growing interest in doing trade and increasing commercial ties. T&T companies, including Sacha Cometics and the Massy Group, are already established in Colombia.
Joseph, who has been in the food business for 18 years, presented two T&T dishes at the Food Festival—pelau and roti.
“Each presentation was 90 minutes where I prepared the dish and it was done before crowds of roughly 100 persons. The crowds were very excited to see our tasty dishes,” he said.
Joseph said Colombians are very interested in learning more about T&T's food and even in collaborating with local chefs.
Stop looking to the Government to fix every problem and instead focus on becoming better productive citizens. That is the advice from former Minister of Trade and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne as the nation prepares for the reading of the 2016/17 budget on September 30.
He said productivity and discipline was needed from citizens for T&T to rally out the economic downturn.
Government had no other choice but to cut back given the decline in energy prices and the unstable economic climate. Cutbacks, he added, must be across the board in all sectors.
“I would like to see a realistic assessment and adoption of policies which suit our current financial situation,” he said. “Output has declined by way of volume and prices have gone up and unfortunately we expanded our expenditure profile on an unsustainable basis so we have to cut it back.”
Referring to policies undertaken under by late Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Browne said T&T had a deficit budget when the oil shock occurred in 2008.
“At that time we had sufficient money put aside to continue construction. We ran a budget deficit in 2008 and 2009 and 2010. At that time it was anticipated that decline would take three years before it was rectified,” he recalled.
“We are at the stage where we have no subsidy on super. Those who use premium are effectively paying taxes and we have a subsidy on diesel which cost us $2 billion per year roughly. We started to make adjustments in GATE but we have to make more adjustments across all expenditure profiles to arrive at a sustainable position.”
Browne said there was need to prioritise across the board. Government’s support to small business development will not solve the economic problems, he advised
“The Government is not a tireless mother to the privater sector or to John Public. There are things we have to do. The State has to ensure that the services to the public are efficient and that they work but there is ample evidence to suggest that it doesn’t.
“Public service needs to improve. We have lost productivity and work ethic. Workplace discipline, management and leadership is needed and it is pointless to think that the government can fix everything,” he said.
With regard to the foreign exchange crisis, Browne said the Central Bank was well able to deal with that situation.
“The Minister of Finance and his technical advisors know what to do. When we were in this position in 1993 we had a couple weeks of import cover but now we have 11 months of import cover, yet we moved the exchange rate from $4.25 to $5.75 back then. We have to allow the system to work but we are interfering with the system,” Browne said.
Sales of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have exceeded expectations so far this year, Curtis Mohammed, president of National Gas Company (NGC), said on Wednesday. He said the company’s target to the end of August was 265 vehicles but as much as 346 vehicles have been sold in that time.
“We note with satisfaction, the recent introduction of heavy duty CNG Freightliner trucks to the local market, the first of its kind exported from North America. Let me say, on the OEM (original equipment manufacture) vehicle side of the market, that we are pleased with the rapid developments taking place,” he said in his address at the launch of two new 18-seater CNG maxi taxis at City Gate, Port-of-Spain.
Mohammed recalled that in 2014 NGC approached the Association of Maxi Taxis of T&T (AMTTT) and asked them to switch to CNG. Last year, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the company and AMTTT to facilitate the switch from the old diesel powered maxi taxis to CNG vehicles.
The first two maxi taxis were supplied through the AMTT’s new commercial arm, Routes Auto Limited. Mohammed said this was made possible through a grant which is available to the first 1200 maxi taxi owners who apply before the expiration date of May 2018. CNG maxi taxis can also be puchased outside of the grant as there are at least two companies which will soon be selling OEM CNG maxi taxis.
AMTTT president Eon Hewitt described the launch as an historic event marking the beginning of the change from diesel to the alternative fuel, CNG.
“Previously, CNG as an alternative fuel failed and a left a negative perception with us,” he said.
Hewitt said AMTTT members visited China last year to explore what types of CNG maxi taxis would be the best to buy. They eventually settled on the Jiangsu Joylong Automobile brand. The purchase was done by Routes Auto which is wholly owned by AMTTT. Hewitt said the company has as its main driving force improving the quality of products and services offered to members and enhancement of the competitiveness of the industry.
Kevin Lee-A-Ping walked onto the set of Planting Seeds bursting with excitement. Like the other 52 entrepreneurs débuted on the first season of the show, this was his first time pitching his business idea—not just to a panel of investors, but to the entire Caribbean region.
Lee-a-Ping is a videogame fanatic who turned his passion into a business by creating a company called E-Sports Caribbean League (ECSL), with the objective of developing T&T’s professional and competitive gaming sector. In April 2014, Lee-a-Ping commenced business operations with ECSL’s first event at the Woodbrook Youth Facility, and now has an annual flagship event called Gamescon, which attracts 250 gamers and 650 spectators each year.
The event, which features a series of ten gaming tournaments, is filled with action and excitement as an entire community of gamers and gaming enthusiasts (some dressed as their favourite videogame characters) gather to witness the coronation of the new Gamescon champion. As for participating gamers, they take Gamescon seriously, since they are competing in front of a live audience for bragging rights and cash prizes.
Bolstered by Gamescon’s success and the exponential growth of the e-sport industry worldwide, Lee-a-Ping came to Planting Seeds to offer a 20 per-cent equity of his company in exchange for $300,000. He explained to investors that the capital would be used to turn ECSL into the premier tournament-hosting company in the Caribbean, as he believed he was filling a gap in the market.
One by one, the investors turned him down, until one investor, Joseph Rahael, made an offer for a 45 per-cent equity stake in exchange for $300,000. Lee-a-Ping took a minute to consider the offer. The money was right there on the table—but at what cost? He would have to give up almost half of his company, a company that is already established, with a reputation for hosting the best Caribbean tournaments. He tried to bargain, but Rahael held firm on the 45 per-cent deal, as he viewed the business as high-risk, and has no interest in the industry.
Many business people, at some point in their entrepreneurial journey, will face the same decision that Lee-a-Ping had to make that day: a decision as to how much they think their business is worth. More often than not, entrepreneurs in Lee-a-Ping’s position underestimate themselves and undervalue their business, leading them to take offers from disinterested investors just because they don’t believe that they could do it on their own or find a better partner. However, Kevin Lee-a-Ping is not one of those entrepreneurs. He stood his ground, and did not accept the money, becoming the first Planting Seeds Entrepreneur to walk away from a deal.
For Lee-a-Ping, his experience on Planting Seeds reminded him of the worth of his business. As for Planting Seeds viewers, the episode provided a key business lesson: know when to turn down a deal that isn’t right for you, even if all the money you need is right there for the taking.
Planting Seeds was made possible thanks to the collaborative effort of the Planting Seeds producers, Ernst & Young, and JD Sellier, as well as sponsors JMMB, Caribbeanjobs.com, Beacon Insurance, and Blink|bmobile.
Tune in every Tuesday at 8 pm on CNC3, and watch as T&T’s very own up-and-coming entrepreneurs vie to turn their business dreams into a reality.
Six of the country’s biggest private sector organisations had a stern warning for the Government and Opposition yesterday: Stop playing politics with FATCA and put country first.
In an unprecedented move the groups, led by the Bankers Association of T&T (BATT), convened an urgent press conference to call for passage of the Tax Information and Exchange Agreement (TIEA) Bill, 2016, when the Parliament resumes today.
Other groups at the press conference at Republic Bank’s headquarters in Port-of-Spain, were the American Chamber of T&T (AmchamTT), the Association of T&T Insurance Companies (ATTIC), T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, T&T Coalition of Service Industries and the Energy Chamber. They collectively said there is enough time to pass the legislation although there are only eight days left before the September 30 deadline for FATCA compliance.
Nigel Baptiste, managing director of Republic Bank, said the groups were speaking out is to amplify their appeal for both side to “desist from politicking on this matter and put the interest of the country first.”
Responding to concerns raised by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar about possible invasions of privacy, Baptiste said as it stands, information can be disclosed by banks if there is a court order, or if they have permission from the individual.
“This Bill does take away the need for consent or the court order but is purely for the purposes of reporting to the IRS,” he said.
CEO of the T&T Chamber Catherine Kumar said information requested would be passed from the financial institution to the Board of Inland Revenue, then to the IRS.
Also speaking out on the issue was Dr Thackwray Driver, CEO of the Energy Chamber, who said anyone interested in doing business in T&T would be watching what is happening with the TIEA Bill.
He said: “Incidents like this, where T&T is showing itself not able to live up to its international obligations, do nothing for our reputation with our international investors.
“Anything like this, which shows increased political risk for people, shows increased risk of doing business in the country and doesn’t help us in terms of attracting investment that we need.”
Baptiste said the six groups collectively agreed there was no need for the Bill to go to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.
“This can be debated and if there are any changes we believe they will be minor. There are changes which the Opposition wants which I believe, hopefully, are also minor, that can be done and agreed on the floor itself, given the timeframe we are working with,” he said.
Baptiste also pointed out that powers granted to the Minister of Finance in the legislation are only at the level of providing information. He said there is currently an agreement in place for the exchange of information between T&T and the US without violating any laws or human rights. Being compliant with the TIEA, he said, means that financial institutions will be more proactive in supplying information to the US and vice versa.
AmchamTT CEO Nirad Tewarie said the time to talk has expired and T&T should be more concerned about the consequences for not passing the legislation.
Caribbean tourism remains competitive despite growing competition from new industry players in the Pacific, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, says Richard Sealy, out-going chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
Speaking at the recent CTO State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) in Barbados, he said: “In the face of all of this, the region recorded 28.7 million visitor arrivals in 2015, an increase of seven per cent. With this performance, the Caribbean has outpaced international tourism arrivals which grew by 4.4 per cent in 2015.
“We must commend ourselves on achieving healthy growth in this challenging, competitive industry. This year we are on target to reach 30 million arrivals which is a very healthy state of affairs. As you are all aware, increased arrivals must be coupled by the concomitant provision of increased room stock. For our part in Barbados, we have plans on stream to increase our room stock by some 2306 by 2019, with a planned investment of US$1 billion.”
Sealy said the Zika epidemic in the Caribbean could have been worse if CTO officials had not taken practical steps to partner with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the University of the West Indies (UWI). This strategic move contributed to prevention and mitigation, through public service announcements on preventative steps and control measures for residents and visitors.
There is a new buzz, Sealy said, about the Caribbean as an ideal holiday and business destination. He called on destination experts in the region to create unique experiences to ensure the sustainability for the industry.
“A simple audit of where we are now and where we plan to go is in order. Early successes in tourism contributed to a stable economy. Suddenly, Caribbean destinations were sought after for holidays and honeymoons.”
Overall market activity resulted from trading in seven securities of which three advanced, none declined and four traded firm.
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 395,985 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $4,788,838.52. Prestige Holdings Ltd was the volume leader with 283,967 shares changing hands for a value of $3,123,637.00, followed by Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd with a volume of 58,504 shares being traded for $102,493.72.
T&T NGL Ltd contributed 25,158 shares with a value of $591,464.58, while Scotiabank T&T Ltd added 14,950 shares valued at $866,353.80. Prestige Holdings Ltd enjoyed the day's largest gain, increasing $0.10 to end the day at $11.
“The good life done!” senior economist Hayden Blades said yesterday as he summed up how citizens are likely to be affected by the budget to be presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on September 30.
Blades, who spoke at a Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs’ (Fitun) pre-budget breakfast forum at Paramount Building, San Fernando, said: “We are in for an unprecedented era of economic contraction and we cannot borrow our way out of it. We have to reduce, reuse, reinvest.”
He said because Government has to reduce expenditure, more people are likely to lose their jobs and additional taxes could be introduced.
Noting that public servants are about 20 per cent of the labour force, Blades added: “If government cannot spend money to pay salaries, to pay wages, keep Cepep going, to keep URP going, to keep the 60 something state enterprises and statutory authorities going, then people going to lose their work.”
Blades said the great recession of 2008 was “the first salvo fired across the oil and gas bow” and recalled that the then Finance Minister had to revise the budget, but no one paid much attention because the money was there.
By 2010 things were looking better, he said, but the country was caught up with scandals involving government contracts, Calder Hart, Udecott and “cussing Mr Manning.”
“We were not studying that our lifestyle is dependent on this one oil and gas sector—80 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings, 50 per cent of government revenue, 40 percent of GDP—that one sector.
“Everybody else depending on that sector because is only when Ggovernment collect revenue from that sector the Government now inject revenue into the economy via spending policies, then everybody else make money,” he said.
“It only employs about four per cent of the labour force but it provides 40 per cent or 50 per cent of the government revenue and it is via that tranmission mechanism that we have been living the good life of T&T . . . ”
Blades said if the budget is pegged at $58 million, to maintain “our lifestyle ” a significant portion will go towards the senior citizens grant, cheap diesel, paying public officers and subsidizing the operations of WASA and T&TEC.
“But where will the money come from?” he asked, adding that in 2014 Government collected $19 billion in revenue from the energy section but only $1 billion this year.
Blades said Government’s expenditure will have to decrease and be shifted to other strategic areas of the economy to generate new income.
“If this broken to thief era does not convince us that we have to transform the economy and society nothing else will,” he said.
Sunity Maharaj, director of the Lloyd Best Institute, said change from the ground up is where the transformational impulse is for the economy, for the politics and for everything. She said right after the budget is read on Friday an assessment must be done on how it distrubutes the burden of adjustment.
“People will be willing to make a sacrifice if they can see that everyone is being called upon to make that sacrifice equal to their share of the pie,” Maharaj said.
Portia Simpson-Miller will deliver the feature address at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of T&T (ICATT) conference next month.
The annual event comes off at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, on October 5-6.
Simpson-Miller served as Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister from 2006-2007 and 2012-2016. She is that country’s current Leader of the Opposition and a Member of Parliament.
Internationally acclaimed CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, shares centre-stage at the event. Byrne is an entrepreneur, e-commerce pioneer and CEO, of Overstock.com, which Forbes magazine named the No 9 Best Company to Work for in the United States in 2010. He will deliver an address titled The Crypto-revolution Meets Central Banking and Beyond.
Byrne is responsible for the impressive fortunes of Overstock.com, which in 2014, became the first online retailer to accept bitcoin.
By 2013, the company had revenues of US$1.3 billion and a net income of US$88.5 million. He is well known for his campaign against illegal naked short selling, affirming that the practice has been used in violation of securities law to hurt the price of his and other public companies’ stock. Delegates at the conference can look forward to hearing Simpson-Miller’s story of what has been described as determination and resilience in the face of a tough international economic environment coupled with domestic challenges and her views as to the key ingredients for consideration to achieve economic turnaround in the present circumstances affecting our twin island republic.
The conference will be among the first fora for discussion of the 2017 fiscal package for T&T to be presented on September 30. Former Minister of Finance, Wendell Mottley will moderate a panel discussion on October 5 entitled A 2017 Trinidad and Tobago Budget Exploration—A Balancing Act.
The panel features Charles Percy, managing director and CEO of Methanex Trinidad Limited; Karen Darbasie, Group CEO at First Citizens; and Peter George, Entrepreneur.
RBC Royal Bank is leading as a Titanium Sponsor and Rob Johnston, Head, Caribbean Banking RBC, will speak on Managing Profitability and Liquidity in a Changing Economic Environment.
Sponsors are supporting the 2016 conference: Gold Level Sponsors are Deloitte, EOG Resources, EY, Grant Thornton, KPMG, PKF, PwC and Zcloud Solutions; Silver Level Sponsors are CPA Canada, Guardian Group and SBCS while Bronze Sponsors are ACCA, AEGIS, Atlantic, BDO and Massy.
The Employers Consultative Association (ECA) has given Government a rating of acceptable for their first twelve months in office.
Noting that economic challenges driven primarily by the significant decline in revenues from the energy sector has severely affected Government’s ability to respond to the socio-economic needs and challenges, the group said: “While concerted efforts have been made to manage the economy and more importantly, to stay out of the reach of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we are of the view that more conversations should be had in this regard.
As an example, there is an urgent need for parties to the tripartite process to progress the formulation of strategies for growth and jobs. The ECA over the years has been calling for a greater level of commitment in the creation of public/private sector partnerships. In this regard, policy makers must keep in mind that the private sector remains the engine of growth in the economy, and therefore, must allow greater levels of flexibility for entrepreneurs and small businesses to pursue new ideas and create new opportunities.”
The ECA also underscored the importance of tripartism and social dialogue.
“This vehicle is the key enabler at our disposal that will allow us to have the required levels of honest conversations through a highly collaborative, respectful approach which would result in arriving at decisions built on consensus,” the group said
The ECA is urging Government to take tough decisions to get the economy going again.
“ It cannot be business as usual. Use the realities of current economic environment to influence and create the kind of behavioural changes which are required to take us into the future.”
Chairman of Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT) Emile Elias is optimistic that the company can regain lost market share in less than five years. He said with the introduction of the bmobile Prepaid Visa Card, the company continues to sharpen its competitive edge.
Speaking at Monday’s launch of the prepaid card by bmobile and Republic Bank, at TSTT House, Port-of-Spain, Elias said TSTT’s new vision is to return to profitability and scupper gains made by other operators in the sector.
He said the introduction of mobile money is the first in a series of exciting customer centred initiatives products being rolled out.
“We have new leadership both at the board and at the senior management level. We have a new vision and we have a very new and clear road map that leads us into the future, which is a five-year strategic plan.
“So the issue that I find that is now before our new board of directors, which would have been in office for some ten months, is not whether we change TSTT or not, but whether we manage change or allow change to manage us. That is our challenge. As I have experienced our board and the way that they react to all the initiatives that we talk about, I can say without any hesitation that we fully intend, not just to make sure we are doing things right, but to make sure that we are doing the right things as well.”
TSTT CEO Dr Ronald Walcott described the new electronic payment facility as fully personalised and managed only from the customers’ bmobile handset. From on-line purchases, to overseas travels, as well as local and international ATM usage, it is geared toward enhancing the customer experience in day-to-day purchases.
Walcott said the integration of the prepaid card in the payment eco-system represented more than a revenue diversification opportunity for TSTT.
“Through our introduction of mobile financial services, TSTT is fundamentally supporting the wider economy as we embrace changes to the way in which citizens in T&T are able to access financial services. Through the bmobile prepaid visa card, they will have the convenience and reach of a credit card, but with the control and security of a chip and pin debit card.
“You only spend what you put on to your card. In addition to the card’s latest chip and pin technology, customers can also mitigate against fraud due to app alerts with every purchase. Our customers will immediately enjoy converged bills (mobile and residential) and have the convenience of doing direct top-up.
“With its person-to-person balance transfer, the bmobile prepaid visa card offers a very competitive alternative to MoneyGram or similar services. Further, companies can easily do expense reimbursements and load salaries directly to the card. So while we are in the process of transforming ourselves into an agile broadband company, we are also transforming our fellow citizens into 21st century connected customers.”
Overall market activity resulted from trading in seven securities of which one advanced, two declined and four traded firm.
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 28,668 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $302,442.60. Guardian Holdings Limited was the volume leader with 12,022 shares changing hands for a value of $153,924.60, followed by Trinidad Cement Limited with a volume of 5,460 shares being traded for $17,035.20. National Enterprises Limited contributed 5,000 shares with a value of $50,000, while National Flour Mills Limited added 5,000 shares valued at $12,500.
T&T NGL Limited enjoyed the day's sole price increase, climbing $0.01 to end the day at $23.52. Conversely, National Enterprises Limited suffered the day's greatest loss, falling $0.44 to close at $10.
The Mutual Fund Market did not record any activity.
Auditing and tax advisory firm KPMG is calling for establishment of the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA) so there can be a structured way of collecting taxes.
“The current main tax authority does not appear to have structured means, if any, of treating with businesses that conceal transaction to avoid tax or operate outside the tax system. The fact is that it is ill-equipped to deal with the complexities presented in doing business in today’s world,” the company said in a pre-Budget statement.
Referring specifically to the tax amnesty which ended on Friday, KPMG said given skepticism over the effectiveness and the frequency of such measures, it looks forward to hearing from Minister of Finance Colm Imbert on the actual revenue compared to what would have been collected if there was no amnesty.
“What should be considered is increased tax audits across all sectors by the Board of Inland Revenue covering years of income within the statute of limitation of corporate taxpayers who benefitted from the boom years when oil prices were at their highest,” the company said
KPMG is calling for a transfer pricing regime to be implemented so that overseas multinationals operating in T&T can pay taxes.
“The new administration has spoken to the implementation of a transfer pricing regime to treat with non-resident multinational companies with complex related party structures. Many of these structures can be used as a medium for tax avoidance and it is hoped that the introduction of a transfer pricing regime will significantly reduce the outflow of taxable revenues.”
In the budget to be read by the Finance Minister on September 30, KPMG wants some focus on the effectiveness of the VAT reduction so that taxpayers can have an appreciation of that decision.
New 18-seater maxi taxies powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) are expected to be on the roads this week.
Eon Hewitt, president of the Association of Maxi Taxis of Trinidad and Tobago (AMTTT) told the T&T Guardian making the switch from diesel to CNG is a win-win situation since it not only reduces their fuel bills by 50 per cent, but the vehicles cost half of what they currently pay for a 25-seater vehicle.
“Right now a 15-seater maxi costs between $335,000 and $340,000, a 25-seater costs between $610,000 and $620,000 but we getting a vehicle that costing us between $300,000 and $322,000 and it transports 18 passengers,” he said.
“When you work the maths, if you buy a 25-seater you really paying “an additional $300,000 to carry seven more passengers.”
Those are just some of the pluses Hewitt believes that comes with the switch to the new CNG powered vehicles.
H said: “Right now it costs $110 to fill up a 15-seater maxi and $130 to fill a 25 seater maxi. The new 18 seater maxi takes 45 litres of fuel and it will cost $45 to fill up, because CNG is $1 a litre and diesel is $1.98 a litre.”
Hewitt said the switch also has benefits for the Government and country as “the state will have more diesel at its disposal to sell and the country would benefit from a cleaner environment.
He said while only two CNG powered vehicles will be on the roads from this week there are more on order.
“The drivers are excited at this opportunity,” he said.
Hewitt was on hand a week ago to witness the destruction and disposal of two small diesel-powered maxi taxis The owners, Lucien Hernandez-Maxwell and Godfrey Flemming, agreed to NGC/CNG’s condition for destruction of their vehicles, which were over 20 years old, to access the $45,000 grant to purchase the new CNG maxi taxis imported from the Jiangsu Joylong Automobile Company in China.
The 18-seater maxi taxis are new to the local market which has traditionally been serviced by 15 and 25 seaters buses. The vehicles will be launched tomorrow at the maxi taxi hub at City Gate, Port-of-Spain.
The CNG maxi taxi grant
In 2015, NGC/CNG signed a memorandum of understanding with AMTTT to provide a grant to maxi taxi owners who dispose of their diesel vehicles and switch to CNG. The grant is $45,000 for small maxi taxis and $75,000 for large maxi taxis.
Last Monday, the vehicles belonging to Hernandez-Maxwell and Flemming were taken to a scrap yard and crushed with an excavator. The mangled vehicles were then torn apart and fed into a massive shredder which separated the pieces into metal and other scrap.
Following the disposal of the scrap from the two vehicles the owners were given certificates of destruction which they took to the Licensing Office to register their new CNG vehicles.
As T&T braces for natural disasters, programme leader of the Metallurgy Unit of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) Marco Nunes says it is extremely important that a national building code be established before calamities strike.
Speaking at a forum hosted by Cariri’s Industrial Materials Department, titled Reinforcing our Concrete Structures, Challenges for Business, Nunes said: “We need to put in place basic specifications, especially in a country that is prone to hurricanes and earthquakes. Failing to put things in place for natural disasters will affect us greatly. The sooner we put it in place, the better.”
Asked what was causing delays, Nunes said: “I believe it is more economics than anything else. I believe all manufacturers are trying to keep prices low but at the same time that is impacting on the final quality of the construction.”
Team leader of Cariri’s Civil Engineering Unit, Lisa Ramoutar, also said she hoped that a national building code could be established soon.
“There is some commitment to the establishment of the Small Business Code (SBC). We need to give it priority, especially since we never had any major earthquakes or hurricanes. Haiti has understood the importance of having it and we need to establish and enforce a national code here,” she said.
Ramoutar said some recent buildings were constructed using international building codes but many older buildings may not have been built according to those standards.
Cariri systems analyst Hayden Charles, who chaired the proceedings, said if proper standard materials are not used in buildings and other civil structures, the losses due to natural calamities may be enormous both in terms of human lives and property.
“We have realized, based on experience and feedback from previous seminars, that there is great need for education and advocacy in this area and we at Cariri would like to take up the mantle and be part of the process of positive change,” Charles said.
“As a certified and accredited testing facility, it is vital that we take the lead in bringing these key quality issues to the forefront.”
However, interim president of the Trinidad Chapter of the International Code Council (ICC) and first chairman of the National Building Code Committee Shyankaran Lalla, who has been calling for a building code for the past five years, said while he applauded Cariri’s initiative, there is a need for “open and transparent discussions involving all stakeholders.”
“With regard to Las Alturas, the fundamental problem was the non adherence to building codes. If government is serious about preventing a recurrence then they should move forward and adopt the ICC building codes,” Lalla said.
Chinese Ambassador to T&T Song Yumin, accompanied by Lu Bing, director of Political and Consular Affairs, recently paid a courtesy call at the offices of the T&T International Financial Centre (TTIFC) in Port-of-Spain.
In welcoming the ambassador, TTIFC chairman Richard P Young said: “The financial services sector is the second largest contributor to the economy after oil and gas and it was earmarked for development by the government to facilitate diversification of the economy. In light of extensive investments made by the Chinese government and Chinese businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the potential for further investments, the Trinidad and Tobago government in October 2015 signalled its intention to hold discussions with the Chinese government with a view to strengthening relationships and having Chinese financial institutions establish offices in the Trinidad and Tobago IFC.
“We see these initial discussions with the Chinese Ambassador on the part of the Trinidad and Tobago IFC, as assisting in achieving the government’s stated objective.”
Young said the TTIFC anticipates that further discussions will be held with the Ambassador in this regard.
The Ambassador said the time was opportune for strengthening the relationship between the two countries, especially in view of the previous visit by President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China. He said he looked forward to further discussions with the TTIFC with respect to Chinese financial institutions.
UWI economist Anthony Birchwood is warning citizens to be prepared for serious adjustments in the upcoming budget to be read by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on September 30. He is forecasting cuts in expenditure and introduction of new taxes.
“We will have to make serious adjustments just as the rest of the world has been doing to cope with the difficulties arising from shortfalls in fiscal revenue. We have to attack our current situation aggressively in order to treat with the new economic realities,” he said.
Birchwood said the Government should be focused on eliminating waste as much as possible
“Where cuts in fiscal expenditure take place will obviously be a political choice, but it should be a matter of the Government reviewing its past spending, determining where wastage is taking place and eliminating as much as possible of this wastage. This would go a long way in helping the government consolidate its fiscal position,” he said.
Birchwood said making the tough economic decisions now would auger well for the country as opposed to having to structurally adjust the economy by force.
He said: “The good thing about our current situation is that we can take our own austerity measures before we have to approach international institutions who would recommend more drastic austerity measures. So right now we have a little window within which and enough resources to make the hard but necessary decisions to put the economy on the right footing for the long term”
Birchwood said while he expected the Government to do more borrowing in the upcoming fiscal year, the choice should be to approach multi-lateral funding agencies as opposed to private banking and international financial institutions.
Commenting on the exchange rate and foreign exchange position, Birchwood advised that the Government maintain a tolerance limit for how far the currency should be allowed to depreciate.
“Having signalled its intent to offer some support for the currency earlier this year within a certain limit, the hope is that the depreciation is managed within that limit,” he said.
“The Government needs to be careful so as not to allow a total downward slide of the currency. Even though foreign exchange earnings are down significantly we still earn enough to support the dollar.”
Overall market activity resulted from trading in 17 securities of which four advanced, four declined and nine traded firm.
Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 175,373 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $2,530,425.17.
GraceKennedy Limited was the volume leader with 75,000 shares changing hands for a value of $189,000, followed by Agostini’s Limited with a volume of 21,683 shares being traded for $375,131.13.
Trinidad Cement Limited contributed 18,142 shares with a value of $57,033.69, while Scotiabank T&T Limited added 13,737 shares valued at $794,822.82.
Republic Financial Holdings Limited enjoyed the day's largest gain, increasing $0.11 to end the day at $110.11.
Conversely, the West Indian Tobacco Company Limited suffered the day's greatest loss, falling $0.25 to close at $126.75.
Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 75,630 shares valued at $1,708,504.80. It declined by $0.01 to end at $22.59.