WHILE survival of the SME’s, VAT alternatives and tax incentives are on the budget wish list of the Greater Tunapuna Chamber (GTCIC), combating crime has wormed its way as one of its top priorities to be addressed.
In a joint statement issued by President Ramon Gregorio and PRO Maria Mohammed-Maharaj, the chamber noted that it is not insulated from crime.
“Our membership continues to grapple with crime in the form of robbery, larceny, and the penultimate liability of an out-of-control murder rate.”
Anticipating a budget from this perspective, the chamber outlined some of the areas on which it would like focus to be placed.
“The time has come to meaningfully boost community involvement with public private partnerships. We believe the business community can bring forward creative ideas and investment to take back control of our communities.”
From this perspective, GTCIC said, “Tax incentives should be presented to the private sector to increase this type of activity. This is a model GTCIC has followed and it has yielded positive outcomes in the form of our SOS system currently being piloted in the Tunapuna area.
“We need a holistic approach at the community level as we firmly believe the police service cannot do it alone.”
Focusing on its core operation, the GTCIC said it is anticipating a budget that can bring about a boost to the economy, primarily in the SME sector.
It recommends that Finance Minister Colm Imbert seek to reduce operational costs for SMEs, address access to finance, mainly in foreign exchange to support growth within the sector, as well as incentives to get involved in new markets.
The chamber said an inefficient VAT system can constrict growth when it comes to lowering operational costs as well as fostering investment in the private sector.
“The time has come to incentivise innovation in a meaningful way that can better foster SMEs to up train as well as implement ISO management systems that can bring about greater access to foreign markets.
“This is on the backdrop of facilities and grants that exist to encourage exporting. We believe the net should be widened to cover upgrading human resources and processes to bring SMEs in line and as such, avoid international barriers to trade.
“We need to start adopting the philosophy that no business is too small to export, and in our current reality, the ability to earn every foreign dollar will go a long way.”
When the budget is read on October 2, GTCIC is hoping the Imbert will identify greater access to foreign currency that can aid SMEs with imports.
“We understand the value-added concept and priority should be given to manufacturers. As the major trade hub of the Caribbean, many SMEs import goods, add on value and export. The condition of being an exporter should give access to foreign exchange prioritisation.”
While SMEs are trying to survive on credit cards, it said such a system is failing and forcing some members to close their doors.
“We are looking forward to an articulation of how the state agencies are going to manage foreign currency to bail out SMEs.”
At this peak trade season, the chamber said a much-needed injection into the financial sector from the reserves is needed.
“If this situation is not managed properly with a sense of urgency, we will not only see a gloomy Christmas but a shrunken SME sector next year.”
VAT returns has been a troubling issue for the business sector, and the chamber is proposing a replacement of this system with a standard sales tax.
“This will make more sense to ease the burden on the citizenry, put revenue in the Government’s hands as well as easing the burden of SMEs to pay huge VAT bills and wait years to get a refund.”
In its present configuration, the chamber said the current VAT system is too inefficient and of no value to any stakeholder.
“By solving this problem, we believe such a move will bring about more investment locally where SMEs will now have an additional resource to scale up and improve offerings.”
In terms of boosting agriculture, the chamber also suggested incentives for the private sector to adopt community projects to grow and farm.
“This focus would be to provide opportunities for our youth through training and incentives to encourage investment that will ultimately contribute to reducing our food import bill.”