The reintroduction of taxes on hybrid and compressed natural gas vehicles with engine sizes over 1599 cubic centimetres is a retrograde step and shows bias towards bigger conglomerates and an attack on foreign used dealers, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Automobile Dealers Association, Visham Babwah, has said. “It’s confusing. I don’t understand if this is a new tax on its own or a reintroduction of the original tax and a new one tagged on,” Babwah told the Newsday yesterday in response to Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s 2018 budget.
The incentive on hybrid vehicles was introduced last year to encourage more people to choose an “environmentally friendly” option and was set to expire in 2020 anyway, Babwah said, so he couldn’t understand why after just one year, “because he saw some people driving X5s and didn’t like that,” the minister would remove the policy.
“He didn’t give it time to run. This isn’t just about finances, it’s also about the environment,” Babwah said. Also confusing was the Government’s message, he added, because the point of the incentive removal was to collect more taxes but the incentive still remains for hybrid/CNG vehicles less than 1599ccs.
“CNG (fuel) is subsidised. The price of super gasoline and diesel have now gone up,” he said.
“Only one new car dealer imports CNG-ready vehicles and the best-selling hybrid that we import, the Nissan X-Trail, is not sold by the local new car dealer. This Government is a conglomerate government,” he added.
Imbert also said that for 2017, the country imported 35,000 vehicles at a cost of US$500 million. Babwah said he wanted the ministry to clarify how many of those vehicles were imported by new car dealers and by foreign used dealers.
“It makes it appear that the foreign used car dealers are having a big impact, but we can’t get foreign exchange so, I don’t know who is getting all that money (to import cars),” said Babwah.