The UNC's Mayaro MP Rushton Paray on Saturday issued a letter saying it was crucial that the Government urgently move to end what he described as a chronic shortage of officers at the Customs and Excise Division, in light of the removal of taxes on laptops and similar items.
Paray wrote: "The Customs and Excise Department is woefully under-staffed, and would become even more hard-pressed to deliver in light of the expected surge in importation of computers and other digital equipment.
He blamed the PNM for failing to fill the large number of vacancies at customs, which he said has led to major bottlenecks in the delivery of imported items.
"The most recent mass employment of Customs and Excise officers was done in 2014, when 76 were hired by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government to bolster protection of the country’s borders and to increase revenue collection. The Department is currently at its most depleted level in modern history.
"Minister of Finance Colm Imbert must back up his decision on taxes and duties by swiftly employing the requisite number of Customs and Excise officers, since many consumers are likely to import digital equipment on light of the tax break.
"Failure to do so," said Paray, "would lead to increased logjams, and would render his waiver on taxes and duties to be meaningless... The minister must immediately put purpose and validity to his announcement."
On Friday, Imbert tweeted that computers, laptops and related digital devices sourced locally and abroad would be exempt from all taxes with immediate effect.