The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AmChamTT) says the 2017 - 2018 national budget should address six core challenges. They are Debt Management; Ease of Doing Business; Digital Transformation; Energy Sector Policy; Diversification; and National Security.
Submitted to the Finance Ministry back in July, the 36-page document was re-issued publicly yesterday; six days before the budget is to be presented.
It starts with a call for Government to “begin the formulation and adoption of fiscal rules (in the area of debt, budget balance, expenditure and revenue) immediately and seek to have these implemented by fiscal 2019 for the latest.”
AmChamTT also says debt reduction can be partly achieved through the sale of CL Financial assets, “specifically targeting bonds issued for the purpose of those bailouts.”
Ease of Doing Business should not only see improved customer service at Government offices and flexible working hours and regulated lunch breaks within the Public Service, it should include timely settlement of Value-Added Tax (VAT) refunds and replacement of the Online Purchase Tax (OPT) with a $10 Airway Bill fee.
AmChamTT’s Digital Transformation proposal would see the re-classification of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and internet enablers, such as smartphones, under the Computer Laptop and Tablet Duty Exemption category “as part of public sector digitisation project.”
Another recommendation is to “promote the use of alternate, technology-based channels for the delivery of Government services, with a view to deriving improved cost and efficiency profiles going forward.”
Topping the Energy Sector Policy is a call for the budget oil price to be pegged at US $40 per barrel, with a hedge of US $35 while gas prices should be maintained at US $2 per mmbtu.
As has long been called for by petroleum retailers, AmChamTT says “Government should review the margins afforded to petroleum dealers, peddlers and retailers and implement a mechanism to automatically calculate these margins.”
Focusing on the ICT sector is number one in the organisation’s Diversification recommendations while it says more attention should be paid to the growth and sustainable development of the tourism sector.
National Security starts with, “Address the Appointment of a Commissioner of Police”, followed by improve the Human Resource Management System within the police service.
“Provide an update on initiatives to electronically monitor offenders and establish a DNA Bank” were among AmChamTT’s other recommendations on national security.