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Port of Port-of-Spain

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce says the liberalisation of the retail fuel market and the privatisation of operations of the port of Port-of-Spain are “progressive steps towards more public-private partnerships, which will improve efficiencies in these areas.”

In response to Government’s fiscal package delivered by Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday, the Chamber said the minister has projected revenue estimated at $41.361B, and expenditure $49.573B with a fiscal deficit of $8.209 billion for fiscal year 2021, but it believes more detail is required with regards to the income from non-energy as it appears high.

“We also would have liked to see more effort towards tightening Government expenditure to reduce the deficit,” the Chamber said.

The Chamber however, thanked the minister for adopting some of its recommendations saying it has consistently advocated for an enabling environment to sustain and develop the business sector, particularly the manufacturing sector, which is crucial to foreign exchange earnings and diversification.

“The Minister acknowledged the challenges faced by the gas value chain, and the need to become competitive. It is critical that the work being performed on the gas value chain be completed quickly to ensure long term sustainability of the sector,” the Chamber added.

Regarding VAT refunds, it said it is disappointed more was not done to address this.

The Chamber noted however, the positive adjustment to the Supplemental Petroleum Tax (SPT) regime will have a significant impact on small producers, where increased activity is expected.

“We are also encouraged by the statement that the Petroleum Act will be reviewed. Hopefully this can be done sooner rather than later.

“The Government’s push to start the energy transition is also encouraging. However, greater focus must be made on energy conservation and reducing wastage,” the Chamber advised.

It said it is also encouraged by Government’s plan to lay out a clear long-term plan for the energy transition, which if successfully done, will create opportunities for investment.

In particular, the Chamber said it looks forward to the continued digitalisation of Government services to improve the ease of doing business and efficiency in the judicial system through virtual courts.

As it relates to property taxes, the Chamber said it has has continuously advocated for the six per cent tax to apply strictly to physical property and not on installed plant, machinery and equipment.

The Chamber said however, it is “counterintuitive” to implement measures to encourage manufacturing activity while taxing machinery and equipment used in factories.

It noted it is pleased to see the action taken to develop the agriculture and agro-processing sectors as it believes the $4 billion food import bill is unsustainable.

“We are heartened to hear that for the next five years the highest level of priority will be given to improving T&T’s food security by providing the appropriate funding and addressing the institutional challenges faced by the sector,” the Chamber added.

It said it also recognises the need to implement social support for Tobago which has been hard hit.