As Finance Minister Larry Howai prepares to deliver the national budget in Parliament on September 8, a former head of the Supermarkets Association, Balliram Maharaj, is calling for critical areas to be addressed in the 2014/2015 fiscal package.
Maharaj, who is the chief executive of ADM Import and Export Distributors in East Trinidad, said in a list of recommendations that Howai should look at food security and high prices, a surcharge on alcohol, the impact of crime and the labour shortage in the country.
“While the world population is growing, food productivity is on the decline. Notwithstanding countries like Brazil, China, and India; thousands of millions of other citizens of the world have more disposable income. Consequently, this contributes to rising of the quality of living and the food they can afford to eat,” Maharaj said.
“Examples of items which are obtained outside of the Caricom include: sugar, red beans, nuts, chicken, prunes, raisins. In particular, Ghee is produced out of pure cow milk. It is one of the main ingredients used for most religious activities. Apart from using it for rituals, it is used in the preparation of foods and delicacies. Presently, this vital product attracts a ten per cent duty and I find it difficult to allow our citizens to pay duty on this item and am therefore kindly requesting for this duty to be removed in the upcoming budget.”
He said the country continued to experience a high degree of carnage on the roads.
“This is mainly due to the number of teenagers losing their lives by drinking and driving. I propose the establishment of a campaign on the dangers of drinking and driving and the implementation of a new ‘Alcohol Abuse Liquor Surcharge’ of five per cent which could be levied on the purchase of all alcoholic drinks bottled and packed in Trinidad and ten per cent on all foreign alcohol in order to offset the cost associated with promoting the dangers of excessive abuse of alcohol,” he said.
“Sir, with the increase of crime in the country, most businesses seldom open their doors without security being present. In order to assist in the safety of the business community and citizens of our beloved country, we kindly ask that all duty and VAT on security and surveillance equipment for property and personal use be removed. Further to this, expenses incurred for security services for protection of both business and private citizens should be allowed two hundred per cent claim for taxation purposes,” he told Howai.
Maharaj suggested that as a result of “our present shortage of labour, it is difficult for Trinidad and Tobago to enhance our competitiveness”.
He said: “In the areas of agriculture, tourism and service industry, it is very difficult to get labourers in these areas. It is our belief that a lot of lower labour is taken up in government social programmes. Thus, I recommend government implement immigration reform and simplify the regulations for foreign labour.”