File picture 2016: A container ship leaving the Port of Port-of-Spain.

Member of Parliament for Mayaro, Rushton Paray MP, is calling on Government to follow the example of its CARICOM neighbour, Guyana, and reduce shipping charges to pre-COVID-19 rates, specifically, before March 2020.

According to the Opposition MP, such a move would “ease financial burdens on consumers and importers” alike.

“Astronomical increases in shipping costs, as a result of supply chain challenges, have led to huge hikes in customs duties, excise taxes and Value Added Tax rates,” he points out in a release issued today.  “As a result, shipping costs for a 20-foot container have typically escalated from US $3,000 to as much as US $15,000, and a 40-foot container has skyrocketed from US $3,500 to US $20,000.”

MP Paray notes that “the increased costs are inevitably passed onto consumers, who are already battling job losses, small business closures, and other financial difficulties.”

He is advising government to “follow Guyana’s example in reverting to pre-Covid-19 Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) charges on shipped goods in order to ease financial burdens on consumers and importers.”

MP Paray called on Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon make the change as soon as possible.

“This measure has been successfully instituted by the Guyanese authorities, and has been warmly embraced by consumers and business organisations.  The policy move would serve as a major stimulus to economic activity, in facilitating private sector investments and encouraging consumer savings,” he argues.

He warns of dire consequences if government moves too slowly on this initiative.

“Failure to act promptly and decisively could see entrepreneurs and consumers becoming victims of even higher shipping costs, as the World Trade Organisation is forecasting further disruptions in trade. International economic experts have confirmed the steep rise in the cost of imported commodities over the past 18 months, to compound worsening unemployment rates,” he says.

“With Trinidad and Tobago’s annual $4 billion in imported food, steeper charges would have a devastating impact on nutritional levels, especially with respect to vulnerable citizens,” the Mayaro MP added.