‘Budget should tackle crime fight, healthcare issues’
The Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce is hoping Finance Minister Larry Howai’s national budget presentation on September 9 will continue to stimulate the economy and to help tackle areas like crime, healthcare and improving the country’s infrastructure.
In a statement to the Express yesterday, Chamber president Lily Herai said: “The economy has been projected to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2013.
“The chamber is of the view that the 2013/2014 budget must ensure that there is adequate economic stimulus to improve the rate of economic growth for the country.
“In this regard, we look forward to investment in projects to ensure sustainable economic growth for the future.
“In the area of revenue generation, the Government needs to implement the return of land and building taxes, which is an area which has not been addressed by the Government since the ‘axing’ of the property tax in 2010.”
Government needs to place greater emphasis on crime reduction “as criminal activity continues to plague citizens and businesses”, she said.
“We look forward to adequate allocations to address crime-fighting activity and policing as a whole. For example, our police stations need to be better equipped to execute their duties efficiently and effectively.
“In addition, there is the need for widespread use of CCTV cameras in city centres and towns throughout the country.”
The healthcare system is another area of concern for the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber.
Herai said it “definitely requires improvement, as the delivery of quality health services to the people should be a priority. Our hospitals and other public health services continue to be plagued with problems related to inadequate hospital beds, equipment and staffing. The chamber is looking forward to a greater allocation in the budget to address healthcare.”
There is a need for infrastructure planning and development to meet the thrust of sustainable development, she said, adding, “More emphasis should be done to address flooding, poor drainage, and traffic congestion as these problems continue to be areas negatively impacting the daily lives of citizens.
“These problems are quite acute in the Couva/Point Lisas area and, as a key area of economic activity for the country, it requires urgent attention.”
With regard to a reduction in the fuel subsidy, Herai said: “The chamber is of the view that any further removal of gas subsidies must be well thought out to ensure that lower income groups will not be seriously affected by the fallout in the removal of the subsidies. Also, there should be reduced taxes and duties on light commercial vehicles equipped to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).”
Consideration should be given to the removal of Valued Added Tax (VAT) on plant and equipment for approved manufacturers as well as speedy VAT refunds, she added.
“As many companies experience problems in obtaining employees for light vehicles that fall under ‘Heavy T’ vehicles, consideration should be given to change the licensing requirements for vehicles (1.5 tons) to be reclassified as light vehicles,” Herai said, adding: “In the 2010 /2011 budget, Government signalled its intent for Couva to be one of the major growth poles for economic activity in the country. The chamber would like to see the implementation of the action plans related to this growth pole and to the Sugar Heritage Village which promises to create employment, develop and establish new businesses and to be a tourist attraction for the Couva area.”