UNC shadow labour minister Rudranath Indarsingh is calling on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to say whether he has instructed the chief personnel officer not to meet with public sector union representatives. He said the Opposition is concerned about the rising cost of living and how the proposed taxes and other measures government will be imposing will affect this.
Speaking at the first of the Opposition’s regular weekly media briefings on Sunday, Indarsingh suggested the government was following measures similar to those usually proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“While we have not gone formally to the IMF, the signals emanating from the government send a clear message that we have embraced prescription that are similar to IMF conditionalities, because there seems to be a wage freeze that has been imposed on the public sector.
"The Finance Minister must say whether he has given this instruction to the CPO and this is why there is a zero-zero offer of there are no negotiations taking place.”
He said the Opposition is concerned about the continued contraction of the economy and this was the reason the Opposition Leader had issued a call for the removal of value added tax (VAT) on all food stuff.
“We have been warned by food distributors in the business community, that given the crunch for foreign exchange, food prices may be increased by over 35 per cent in the forthcoming months. Some measures the government has signalled will come onstream in 2021 include the property tax, and tariff reviews on electricity and water rates, and we are worried how these will impact on workers’ ability to provide for their families.”
Indarsingh said government should also address the issue of shipping rates and how they will impact the cost of food, goods, and services, as well as the business community.
“We have heard that the shipping industry will only accept US dollars from TT’s business community. This underlines the decreasing international value of our dollar and highlights the increasing demand for foreign exchange in a country where reserves are dwindling.
“Our sources have indicated that custom duties are usually based on cost, insurance, and freights, the CIF value of goods. Internationally there has been an increase in freight rate, and it means the CIF value would increase and the cost would be passed on the ordinary citizens of the country.
"The Finance Minister has said the ASYCUDA system has been repaired, but we have been told that the system is not fully functional. As a result, there is another charge in the shipping fraternity called demurrage (a charge payable to the owner of a chartered ship on failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed), which must be paid to the agent or vessel and will further impact on the cost of living in our society.”