“Ban’ yuh belly!”
This was the advice yesterday from Chaguanas resident Roy Saroop, who warned that the 2021/2022 Budget, due to be laid in Parliament on Monday, can have devastating effects on the country’s poor.
Guardian Media visited Chaguanas on Friday ahead of Monday’s Budget presentation to find out what its residents expect to hear Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
Saroop was one of several people who were open to speaking about his expectations.
“Is about taxes, taxes and more taxes, they are going to tax this country into poverty,” he said.
A retiree from T&TEC, Saroop said in the community of Felicity where he lives, farming is a major part of life. But he said farmers are struggling to make ends meet.
“People are growing but they need help from the government. The government needs to do something more for the poor people,” Saroop said.
Resident Barry Thomas said he also expects more taxes to be brought in the budget.
He said many small businesses have closed permanently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The export economy for persons who were doing that has been shut down to some extent and if the government has not diversified to get another stream of revenue, then the alternative is for the small man to get tax,” Thomas said.
Another resident, Lal Katwaroo said he expects the fuel prices to increase.
He appealed to the Government to consider the nation’s poor as he said any increase in fuel prices can cause many citizens to suffer.
“I am just asking the Finance Minister to think carefully, this country is in a crisis, the economy is going down and people are suffering a lot and the poor people will have to face the brunt of it,” Katwaroo said.
Elvis Laloo, who has been making and selling leather slippers and shoes along the Chaguanas Main Road for years says business in Chaguanas has decreased significantly since this country began feeling the effects of the pandemic.
“People not buying, people not putting out money to do anything, the only thing they are buying is foodstuff, market, grocery, otherwise nobody buying any clothes…nothing, it very slow,” Laloo said.
Christine Francis told Guardian Media she was hoping to see money allocated to provide more housing and a decrease in food prices.
Guardian Media spoke to the president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Vishnu Charran, who said the Chamber had sent its proposals to Imbert weeks ago. He is hoping those proposals will be considered.
He said the recommendations include special attention to this country’s eco-tourism. Charran said in Chaguanas, there are several under-utilized sites for eco-tourism that can boost the country’s earning ability. A stronger focus on agriculture, an Industrial Park for Chaguanas and making Chaguanas the information technology (IT) capital of the country were some of the other proposals.
But a major focus of the proposal was the development and support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs.)
“We have always promoted paying attention to small manufacturers at the chamber. Small manufacturers are many in the country, we need to help to develop them. The Chamber has positioned itself to help these people, to develop them, to give them the advice they need,” Charran said.
He said local manufacturers need to be exposed to the international market.
“We need to cater for the future. It’s all about visionary thinking, visionary planning and taking the people from where they are and helping them to have strong business products, a strong business manufacturing setup and help them to move from just selling on Facebook and to friends but into an international market. We cannot continue as we did in the past – the world is changing and we have to change our vision and our whole outlet and how we develop our business.”
Charran said the Chamber is trying to proactively assist entrepreneurs by guiding them in their businesses.
He is asking anyone who owns and operates an SME to contact the Chamber at 683-3822 for assistance.