INDEPENDENT Senator Charrise Seepersad, in her contribution to the budget debate on Tuesday, urged the Government to tax global tech giants such as Facebook as they undermine local businesses.
Her call followed complaints last year by ANSA McAl head A. Norman Sabga who blamed an $11 million loss at CNC3 on advertising because of direct competition from these foreign firms. “The impact of the global digital economy is a serious threat to TT’s economic activity,” Seepersad said.
“Amazon, Netflix, Google, Twitter and Facebook for example are taking away media market-share from businesses while having no local economic footprint.” She lamented that foreign firms drain foreign exchange from TT, yet themselves do not incur any significant costs to operate in TT.
“They simply create digital platforms and provide connectivity among consumers and accrue wealth to the platform owners. This activity has provided the platform owners with massive amounts of personal data on consumers and with data-mining has produced profiles for marketers,” the said.
Seepersad warned that these digital platforms were designed to exploit consumers worldwide via the Internet. “The Government should be concerned about how to get some of this wealth-generating activity of the digital economy by creating a global value-chain which includes building platforms and devising a system to get taxes from these platforms locally.”
Seepersad said new legislation for e-commerce is now critical. She had suggestions for better governance. These included the Government doing a full review of all public debt, implementing procurement legislation and making the National Statistical Institute a priority to set up. Seepersad urged the Government to stop taxing people’s pensions.
In a plug for the environment, she said TT was the world’s worst plastic polluter, urged a ban on fluorescent light-bulbs and advised drivers to move away from using gasoline to more sustainable forms of energy. Seepersad said technological methods can be used in agriculture to help reduce TT’s $5 billion per year food import bill.