RADHICA DE SILVA
Trade and Industry Minister Paul Gopee-Scoon says Government is moving to de-register foreign used car dealers who do not comply with specific importation standards.
Delivering her 2021 Budget contribution in Parliament yesterday, Gopee-Scoon said she was aware of the discontent in the foreign-used car industry and she intends to meet with dealers to discuss concerns.
Explaining the Government’s decision to increase taxes on vehicle imports, Gopee-Scoon revealed that $2.5 billion in valuable foreign exchange is used annually to import foreign-used cars. T&T already had over a million cars on the nation’s roads and Gopee-Scoon said medicine importation was now a greater priority.
“This country has been spending more foreign currency than it earns on an annual basis. During the period January-September 2020 alone, the value of purchases of US currency from the Central Bank by all authorised FX dealers in the financial sector was US$940 million,” she said.
Noting the uproar by foreign-used dealers who now have to pay more taxes on vehicle imports, Gopee-Scoon said, “I have spoken to the president of the Used Car Dealers’ Association, Mr Visham Babwah and will meet and listen to his concerns about goods already on the water.”However, she said the Government will look closely at unscrupulous dealers.
“We are looking closely at those dealers who have not observed all of the terms of their dealerships and will be moving to de-register them. I will also listen to the New Car Dealers’ Association as we seek to implement quotas on the importation of new motor vehicles. At the end of it all, our decisions will be fair and transparent,” she vowed.
Contacted for comment yesterday, T&T Automotive Dealers Association president Visham Babwah reiterated that 550 dealers will lose thousands if the Government proceeded to revoke subsidies by October 20.
However, he agreed with the minister’s proposal to deregister those dealers who do not satisfy the criteria for vehicle importation.
“This is something that we lobbied for a while now,” Babwah said.
He noted, however, that foreign used dealers are not totally responsible for the entire leakage of foreign exchange, saying the minister should calculate how much was being used by new car dealers and personal car importers. Babwah said the 550 dealers are allowed 13,500 vehicles per year.
“Since the minister is claiming that foreign exchange is being used by the dealers, let the Government explain how many US dollars have been spent to purchase luxury vehicles by the 41 MPs and the senators and how many TT dollars in exemptions that these politicians benefitted from,” Babwah added. He also denied that the foreign-used dealers were trying to use the personal import system to acquire cars, saying unregistered dealers were doing this.