Thursday 26 November, 2020

AMCHAM T&T President: 'Prioritise improving ease of doing business'

Improving the ease of doing business is key in ensuring a more attractive business environment.

This from President of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM T&T) Patricia Ghany who said as a pre-requisite, the country’s Economic Recovery Plan must have clear objectives tied to improving quality of life to achieve this.

She made the comment while speaking at AMCHAM T&T’s Post Budget Forum on Wednesday.

The AMCHAM T&T President welcomed the step toward increased growth and revenue demonstrated in Government’s commitment to the digital transformation of the economy in the national budget for fiscal 2021.

She warned, however, that it must be handled with the right approach.

“Digitising parts of our public sector cannot just be part of the short-term goal to recovery. We must build a fully digitally based, enabling economy that will not only improve the ease of doing business but secure our nation’s economic future through the creation of new and exciting jobs, boosting of entrepreneurship, and building the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness.”

She applauded incentives for start-up companies in the form of grants and tax credits to businesses to invest in tech start-ups or new tech businesses.

Ghany said this will create a viable source for revenue, open the job market to many young professionals, and commit the nation’s future to a digitally-based economy.

She noted that Government’s commitment to an e-payment gateway for government services, national e-identity, a unique national identification number and the use of virtual courts can all be transformative for both individuals and businesses in all sectors.

“These are all key steps we have recommended many times before and which we believe will be dependent towards building a digital-based economy that will improve the ease of doing business in T&T.

We trust that the Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation will give specific timelines for implementation, inclusive of appropriate and meaningful consultation with stakeholders,” Ghany said.

She also welcomed commitments to reduce the time taken to get permits, modernisation of the Port of Port of Spain and the liberalisation of the fuel market.

“We trust (these commitments) will be done in an orderly and transparent manner, are all welcome.”

The AMCHAM T&T President also had recommendations on the reform and modernisation of the Customs and Excise Division.

“Critical in this (Customs reform) is a robust and effective risk-based framework that would remove from the examining officer the discretionary power to inspect packages except in very specific circumstances. This will discourage corruption and enhance efficiency.

 

Further, we strongly recommend the introduction of a de minimis value of USD $400 for imported items and a return to the 2011 system that allowed commercial packages with a value of less than TTD20,000 not requiring a customs entry.”

She said these measures will improve the ease of doing business and have a minimal impact of government revenue.

Restating concerns on revenue projections by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Ghany said AMCHAM T&T remains cautious in the context that only $32.5B was raised in fiscal 2020 and T&T is still being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said without access to all of the information that the Minister used to calculate his revenue projection, the chamber remains concerned that this target is overly ambitious.

Ghany said this may force the government to undertake further borrowing or mid-year cuts that could undermine attempts at recovery and transformation.

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