TTMA: Diversify away from energy sector
The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers' Association (TTMA) said yesterday it was encouraged by measures in the 2012/2013 national budget aimed at improving the country's international competitiveness, and ease of doing business.
"This country has been declining in competitiveness over the last decade, and the scores show that little progress has been made in addressing the challenges to doing business. Specific areas must be addressed to support businesses to develop and maximise their competitive advantage to achieve the economic transformation that is required in T&T for diversification of the economy away from the energy sector," the TTMA said in a statement.
The integration of the Single Electronic Window (TTbizlink) with ASYCUDA World, the establishment of invesTT as the national investment facilitation agency and the restructuring of the Business Development Company (BDC) to an Export Promotion agency will improve the business climate, the business group said.
"TTMA notes that construction of a port at La Brea was announced; while we await more details on this project, we reiterate the immediate need for infrastructure upgrades for the two main cargo ports at Port of Port of Spain and Point Lisas."
With regard to the CLICO/HCU matter, the Association said it was happy to see that this will be settled.
"This resolution brings much needed closure, removal of uncertainty and an improvement in investor confidence."
The TTMA said it welcomed any initiative that will bring relief to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, such as the temporary removal of VAT on food and beverages.
"We wish to point out, however, that no mention was made of plans to reform the VAT refund system. The refund system promised to businesses is severely ineffective, and has left millions being owed to the manufacturing sector and has directly led to a number of manufacturing businesses experiencing major cash flow problems. Manufacturers encounter this limitation as VAT refunds are typically too long overdue, and this is a major impediment to business which must be urgently addressed," it added.
"On the matter of the removal of duty for importation of equipment for light manufacturing - TTMA notes that the manufacturing sector is already allowed to import equipment duty free, and we request further clarification on this measure."
The group said it welcomed the tax exemption on construction of commercial buildings, car parks, as this will stimulate economic activity.
"The minister's statement that greater consultations would be undertaken to improve labour relations is welcomed, as open dialogue is critical to preventing breakdown in wage negotiations," it said. "What is needed now is implementation of the measures that will allow all businesses to develop through investment, innovation and export development."