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Port of Port-of-Spain

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While President of the T&T Chamber of Industry Commerce Reyaz Ahamad welcomes privatisation of the port of Port-of-Spain, he said the Customs and Excise Division must step up its game for the entity to be fully functional and effective.

Speaking at the Chamber’s virtual post budget analysis Ahamad said far too often businesses have encountered challenges at the port.

“This new plan must go hand-in-hand with customs and customs must work in an efficient manner.

“There is too must overtime being applied, too many delays, too much demurrage cost and that is foreign exchange leaving the country. It’s a more holistic approach to the port operations and customs,” Ahamad said.

He noted the Jamaican port is privatised, adding that this might be an opportunity for the Jamaican port operators to invest in Trinidad.

Anthony N Sabga III, Ansa McAl Group CEO who echoed similar sentiments that privatisation was a positive move said he could not “for the life of him” imagine how Government could be able to run and manage all its other State enterprise.

“We need to recognise largely, in many cases, the State has done what it needed to do and has ended up with a lot of these assets because private sector didn’t do what is was supposed to do.

“We need to commend and regard the State for doing,” Sabga added.

He said the State’s challenge is to “recalibrate and reassign” those private entities to where the proficiency lies.

Sabga said this means the ability to shift ownership to a more proficient entity where returns can be generated in a more productive manner in which the State then benefits from its positive taxation regime.

“Additionally, to unlock the trapped liquidity that is existent in the economy and also giving the right entity the right capability, the reigns to hold, is something I commend but the question asks, ‘Is there enough of that,” Sabga questioned.

He noted Plipdeco is a privately run port also being a publicly trade company and an analysis can done regarding proficiency.

This, Sabga added, can be a fairly good indicator as to “directionally whether privatisation is the way to go.”

On his perspective on the 2021 fiscal package Sabga commended Government for putting “a big arrow” as to where it intends to see growth and opportunities.

“What’s required at this time is a level of quick footedness. A level of unshackling. We have quite a lot of liquidity tied up in the system and there’s a lot of work to be done,” Sabga added.

Businessman Nicholas Lok Jack described the budget as “pretty solid.”

“The liberalisation of the retail fuel pricing, the privatisation of the port signals to me that this is the first step in perhaps what I would hope is multi-year strategy of a medium term to bring our agencies and facilities much more current, and efficient,” Lok Jack said.

He said from this will help the country’s competitiveness.

On the exchange rate policy, Lok Jack said, this could be reviewed.

“If the thrust is serious for export and export earnings I think that needs to be taken in the context of how serious we are about it because comparatively, the delta between our currency and currencies in the region is growing,” Lok Jack added.