Dr Rohanie Maharaj
VAT cut: 'what about foreign items?'
THE temporary removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from imported food items should have been implemented on some foreign products and raw materials used by local manufacturers.
This according to lecturer at the University of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Rohanie Maharaj, who spoke on Monday at a post-budget discussion at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando.
Maharaj said even though consumers will benefit most from the removal of VAT, "we could have paid a little more attention where focus on the foreign food items (and) removing VAT from items that impact elderly children and particularly the low-income persons".
She said the Government's intention to decrease the $4 billion annual import bill by 50 per cent by 2015 is admirable but challenging.
She said many of the materials and food being produced locally depended on foreign products, such as staples and grains used by dairy and poultry industries, which accounted for 20 per cent of the food import bill.
Maharaj said, "It probably would have been prudent to be selective on VAT, so you do not put stress on local manufacturing. For example, we could have removed VAT on the local raw material component for manufacturing. You have to pay VAT on that and take it away from the locally manufactured goods. At the end of the day the local people will be at a disadvantage in terms of their manufacturing."
She said there must be reviews on how lands are allocated and they must be used for agriculture and not housing or other purposes, and there are over 8,600 squatters living on 26,000 hectares of State-owned agricultural lands.
Maharaj said food laws should be upgraded and there must be "some kind of legislation to purchase food from local farmers".