Chamberís second annual Pre-Budget Panel Discussion
Thursday, July 26 2012
THE Chamberís second annual Pre-Budget Panel Discussion took place on July 9, led by an esteemed panel including Allyson West, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Robert Giuseppi and Kelvin Mahabir. Though only in its second year, the Pre-Budget Discussion is already establishing itself as a leading forum for the business community to influence the composition of the budget. Feedback from Members and the wider business community is taken into consideration as the Chamber develops its yearly recommendations to the Minister of Finance for the National Budget.
This yearís Discussion addressed four significant issues pertinent to development of the economy in the next fiscal year and beyond, namely:
- Tax Recommendations to Incentivise Diversification of the Economy
- Labour Unions and their commitment to encourage an increase in Labour Productivity and Pay for Performance
- Recommendations for Attracting Foreign Investment
- Recommendations for dealing with Social Issues and some long term solutions
Against the background of an economy that has shown no growth for the past three years, this Chamber has decided to tie its recommendations for fiscal 2012/2013 with its strategic areas of focus. These are: the Economy, Crime, Competitiveness, SME Development, Tobago Development, and Governance and Transparency.
Investment activity has declined significantly since the financial crisis of 2008. The Chamber believes that in addition to the current Government Infrastructure, there is also need to provide the local private sector with better incentives and reduce differential incentives that favour foreign investors. However, Foreign Direct Investment should not be seen as a threat but an opportunity for local businesses to build on their capacity and competitiveness.
Crime continues to be TTís Number One plague and the Chamberís concerns continue to grow about the negative effect it has created on all areas of our national development. The authorities need to act urgently to counter this plague at all levels. The Chamber has made several recommendations relating to prisoner rehabilitation, crime management and youth development which can help reduce crime.
The issue of competiveness remains a thorn in TTís side. As globalisation has evolved the worldwide financial landscape, we must not allow our economy to fall behind. We recognise that significant progress has been made, particularly through TT BizLink. However, a major barrier to the ease of doing business is the inability to make online payments for government transactions due to inter alia, legislative shortcomings. We urge implementation of the necessary legislation to facilitate this as well as the upgrading of Government systems to allow for such.
Small and medium enterprises continue to emerge as an important sector for sustainable economic development. With financing being a major barrier for SMEs we must look at making the stock exchange third tier listing more attractive to smaller businesses by increasing taxation incentives.
Tobago holds immense economic value for our nation. The Chamber remains resolute and committed to the transformation of Tobagoís business sector into a thriving and self reliant entity and has made proposals towards achieving this. However those recommendations which were accepted are taking too long to be implemented. We will continue to lobby for those proposals which have not yet been accepted in our 2012 recommendations.
The Chamber remains confident in Governmentís ability to identify the path of economic sustainability for 2012/2013 and stands ready to work together to promote a more vibrant business climate.