Small business financing, crimefighting measures, infrastructural development and a new airport in Tobago are just some of the wishes of business associations across the country in the upcoming national budget for 2013/2014 .
Many association presidents however noted yesterday that several other projects are frequently promised in successive budgets and are just not implemented.
Finance Minister Larry Howai will present the budget in Parliament on September 9.
“One of the issues we have is projects that are announced but not realised, then we don’t hear how the money has been allocated. There needs to be accountability and a time frame for the things that are announced,” San Juan Business Association president Abrahim Ali told the Express in a telephone interview.
The announcement in last year’s budget of the removal of value added tax (VAT) on the importation of closed circuit security cameras (CCTV), for example, is something that has not actually materialised, with businesses bringing these products still complaining about having to pay VAT, Ali said.
And the reason they import them is because of the crime situation in the country, which he says he finds the Government still has not adequately addressed.
But for the San Juan area, Ali noted that the economy there thrives on small, micro and medium business enterprises, but these establishments were finding it difficult to survive, especially when high interest rates from financial institutions were a disincentive for small businessmen to seek financing.
President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Nicholas Hardwicke, noted as well that while the Tobago House of Assembly and central government have given their assurances of supporting tourism as the driver for growth and diversification on the island, they “promised a lot and did very little”, with many of these projects taking too long to roll out.
The upgrade of the ANR Robinson International Airport in Tobago, for example, has been announced over a year ago, he said, but nothing has happened yet. “Government is saying a lot and delivering little,” he said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Crime control on the island, especially but not only because of the tourist dynamic, is also something that needs to be addressed, Hardwicke said.
For Tobago, the promises have taken time to materialise, with promised debt restructuring and facilities upgrade funding promised to proprietors taking almost 12 months to implement, he added.
Hardwick said the airport upgrade was an ultimate priority for developing and marketing the island’s tourism potential. Concurrent to that was investing in airlift to the island. Even though they might not be profitable in the initial stages, he said, they were an important investment that needed to be nurtured and marketed until they became sustainable. A good marketing budget and plan was also something the Association is looking forward to.
President of the Point Fortin/Southwestern Peninsula Business Association, Nigel Minors, in an e-mail yesterday also expressed his concerns that promises were made yet there was a lack of development in the area, often touted by the government as one of its key growth poles.
The Point Fortin Hospital, for example, has been promised since 2011 and nothing has been done, but the Couva Children Hospital has already started, he noted.