Fix the Customs & Excise problem
Customs and Excise is by far the most inefficient Government service in this country. As a result, it costs the taxpayers millions of dollars every month in lost opportunity to earn greater incomes. I will explain. It takes no less than one week to clear a shipment in Trinidad and this is after so-called overtime has been paid.
Let us take for example a company that imports 12 shipments a year. This results in a minimum of 12 weeks spent in clearing shipments through customs. This should be two days x 12 shipments resulting in 24 days which is considerably less than the norm now. For the 12 weeks lost, this said importer could have imported an additional two shipments and why is this so crucial to the economy. Here is why:
1. More duties and VAT would have been paid by the importer and this is income for the Government
2. More goods and services would have been sold, increasing the income of the importer and thereby resulting in more taxes being paid to the Government
3. Employees would have earned more (such as sales persons) and therefore more taxes for the Government.
4. These said employees would have had more to spend at other merchants and these merchants would have increased their income as well— again more taxes for the Government.
And this is just one small importer that can contribute to the economy in such a powerful manner. Just stop and consider the large conglomerates that import over 100 shipments a month. Think about how many more they can do if the time frame for getting the goods from the port and into the hands of the consumer was greatly reduced and think about the millions, if not billions of dollars the Government can realise as a result of this time reduction. It takes 24 – 36 hours to clear a shipment through US Customs and I believe the same can be done in Trinidad.
Customs and Excise is notorious for their slowness and the system is awkwardly and frustratingly inefficient.
So Hon Minister of Finance, I hear you and admire your gumption in relation to earnestly finding ways in which to reduce spending and increase income. My humble suggestion is that you start with the problem that is known as Customs and Excise.