SOME small and medium businesses may not survive the period of the Government’s new VAT bonds, warned TT Manufacturers Association (TTMA) head Franka Costelloe. She spoke at the Spotlight on Budget 2020 yesterday at the Radisson Hotel, Port of Spain.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has offered $3 billion in VAT bonds over five years at 1.5 per cent interest in place of now paying VAT refunds.
Costelloe lamented, “The cost of doing business is rising while the ease of doing business is slipping. The fight is not with each other, but is out there.”
She said businesses pay tax at a rate of 30 cents on the dollar, and overall foot 20 per cent of the country’s total tax bill.
On tax, Costelloe supported the Government’s plans for a TT Revenue Authority.
“Politics must be put aside. It is doing what is right for the industry, economy and country.”
Costelloe was loudly applauded when she lamented the penalisation of those entities which are tax-compliant, while the non-compliant run free.
“We ask for more efficiency in Customs, which has a big effect on our bottom line.”
She urged the Government to create an enabling environment for business so as to boost the local manufacturing sector, rather than overly relying on oil and gas.
Costelloe said the TTMA wants TT’s exports to grow from a current $3 billion to $6 billion, by boosting the SME sector. She said companies in the local upstream and downstream energy sector had recently joined the TTMA. Since May 2018, she said, Exim Bank has helped some 40 manufacturers to access $15 million foreign exchange, out of an intended package of $100 million.