AMCHAM T&T Responds to Mid-Year Budget Review 2020
The mid-year review did not contain any surprises. AMCHAM T&T once again places on the record our congratulations to the Government for its containment of COVID-19 in T&T. As a country, our handling of the crisis is indeed the envy of many.
Further, while we are of the firm view that the support to business has not been comprehensive enough, we acknowledge that the Government has managed to maintain social stability and cushion the impact of the pandemic on significant sections of the most vulnerable.
We are concerned, however, that the Government is misdiagnosing the current situation. The contraction this year is likely to be much larger than the 2.4% contraction predicted by the Minister of Finance. In that context growth of 5% in 2021 also seems optimistic. We say this considering that natural gas production over the first six months of 2020 is slightly lower than the comparable period in 2019 while gas prices are significantly lower. In addition, the closure and idling of several plants on the Pt. Lisas Industrial Estate and significantly depressed petrochemical prices combined with the significant losses since March are going to have an extremely significant negative impact on GDP.
In this context, we are extremely concerned about the continuing inability to take decisions about the natural gas value chain that will give long-term confidence to the sector at the various points on the value chain.
We also readily acknowledge that the Minister of Finance has a very difficult job, made worse by the impact of COVID-19, however, the lack of focus on digital transformation of government services, customs reform and passing references to the improvement of the ease of doing business suggest that, at this point, more specificity is required around the initiatives that will be implemented to return the country to growth.
And while the Minister spoke about how many people received support but operate outside of the tax net, he did identify how these people will be brought into the system. We have been urging the Government to use this opportunity to ensure that such people are registered with the BIR and NIB from this point onward and sincerely hope they will do so.
We therefore eagerly await the presentations of individual Ministers and the final Roadmap to Recovery Committee report.
As always, AMCHAM T&T remains committed to collaboration with the Government and other stakeholders as we represent our members’ views and work collectively in the interest of our country.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at email@example.com.
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