THERE is a possibility that the October 1 date for the increase in taxes for high-end vehicles will be changed.
During his budget presentation on Monday Finance Minister Larry Howai announced a 25 per cent increase in the Customs duties for new and foreign-used high-end vehicles (over 2,499 cc) effective October 1.
On Wednesday, at a post-budget forum, Howai said further discussions could be held with reference to the date.
The forum was hosted by the Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce and was held at the Chamber’s building in Couva.
Several heads of the business fraternity attended including Visham Babwah, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Automobile Dealers Association (TTADA).
Babwah asked the minister to reconsider the date.
He suggested the new date be January 1, 2014.
Howai’s response to Babwah was: “It is not cast in stone yet. While the budget is read and the budget is approved, the real approval is when we approve the Finance Act and the Finance Act is normally approved in December or early January. So we can make some changes assuming that based on the feedback that we get we think it makes sense to do what is being proposed.”
Babwah also suggested that hybrid and electric cars be introduced to the population so that “together with the CNG (compressed natural gas) it will assist in the reduction of the fuel subsidy”.
Howai also said the current unrest in Syria should not affect the country’s ecomony.
He said: “We think that the events in Syria are likely to be only temporary in nature and that the price of oil will probably settle back to its normal levels or somewhere along US$100 a barrel probably by the end of this year.”
The main problem for the government could be industrial action, Howai said.
“The biggest risk I think we face is perhaps some level of labour unrest during the course of next year which could potentially affect the expectations that we have concerning the economy. I think it is important for us to build a consensual framework there that would help to create industrial peace.”
He said the government was banking on Labour Minister Errol McLeod (a former union leader) to “deal with all the outstanding labour agreements in a way that does not compromise the fiscal position of the government and in a way that does not derail the local economy”.
The minister was also asked a question by president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce Zamanath Ali who asked why the National Gas Company (NGC) would be responsible for building 22 new gas stations proposed by the government instead of the Trinidad and Tobago National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited (NP).
Howai’s response was that NP did not have all the funding required for the projects and the company was “heavily unionised”.
He said: “We have had a number of disruptions resulting from industrial action in the petroleum sector and it is something we also have to bear in mind with how we position this particular facility.”