Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 23rd 2014 Contents OCTOBER 2014 • WEEK FOUR www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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This is an appeal to the board and management
of the National Insurance Board to set about improv-
ing operations at its service centres as, while the
observations of this writer have been gathered mainly
by visits to the Tunapuna office of the board,
enquiries have led me to believe that the same applies
to most, if not all, of the offices of the board.
Thus, one may observe the following:
1. The apparent absence of a dedicated desk,
manned by a relatively experienced member of staff,
at which the customer/visitor may seek information
and be directed to the appropriate quarter.
2. Failure to maintain and to "hold fast" at queues
at which a designated business may be transacted.
Here one could identify the practice of individuals
breaking queues at cashiers cages for the payment
of contributions in order to transact non-payment
business; a situation which may be attributable to
acts of desperation and bad temper.
3. An apparent reluctance by the public to make
use of the box provided for depositing non-cash
payments; (one hears that this may be related to a
failure to have receipts completed on time for col-
4 Cramped accommodation and a shortage of
seating, bearing in mind that most persons who visit
offices of the board are senior citizens, a high pro-
portion of whom will be disabled.
5. A complete lack of parking facilities for vehicles,
thus leaving the visitor to fend for himself/herself
from action by the police.
6. Clearly, a noticeable shortage of staff at service
centres; a situation which is even more noticeable
during the lunch break and may demand a rede-
ployment of staff rather than a net increase in num-
7. A large plethora of forms which transactions
demand to be completed.
8. One senses low morale among the staff in gen-
While customers are greatful for the increase in
benefits being awarded occasionally, the situation
at NIB service centres---if one were to use the Tuna-
puna situation as an example---presents a pitiful and
undignified sight and creates the impression that
one ought to be "thankful for tender mercies" being
Much better can be done!
Errol OC Cupid
Let me at the onset of this
letter state that my business
is an importer of food
products similar to NFM
and the reason that I am
writing this letter is to
highlight the unfair trade practice being
carried out via the Government and
NFM s 20 per cent discount.
If this period of time was the early
1980s and 1990s, when NFM was the
sole supplier of soybean oil and flour and
dominant in rice, I would have no problem
with the current offer.
However, times have changed. Gov-
ernments over time have realised that in
order to have a more competitive econ-
omy, the products we are unable to grow
should be imported, which has resulted
in the removal and/or reduction of taxes
and tariffs on oil and, in some years, flour
and sugar. A lot of the brands we know
are imported and sold by companies other
than NFM. In fact, the market has been
and continues to be very competitive as
a result of the number of companies
involved in importing soybean oil, rice
From the trade, I know for a fact super-
markets have been sending their own
trucks and vans to NFM s factories in the
last week in order to stock up on their
products just to await the Prime Minister s
announcement of the discount. The thing
is, there has been no limit on purchases
and some supermarkets may have stock
until next January.
The reasons for my descent on the
ongoing discount are several.
The first is that it affects my livelihood
directly. How can a small company com-
pete against the discount, the frenzy of
media ads and then the fallout of sales
in the coming months as supermarkets
needed at NIB offices
seek to push out their stock of NFM s
products? In some cases, other brands
may not be available because they
have purchased too much of NFM s
products. It happened last year after
the first time, and after Eid-ul-Fitr
this year. This time will be no differ-
Secondly, NFM s discount is against
all best practice. If they were giving
the discounts, because they took the
decision on their own, because com-
modities have been falling, no prob-
lem. But here the Government has
said, we will give you back the 20 per
cent that you are losing as a result of
this rebate and discount. So basically
NFM can t lose.
In any such scenario, no company
should be failing, especially as this
has happened three times since
It would be great to find out just
what is the size of the rebate that the
Government has to give back to NFM
after this Divali, and how this impacts
If I were a shareholder, I would be
smiling as long as the Prime Minister
is in power, and it would be interesting
to hear the PNM s stance on this. Are
they going to do the same?
What we should be striving for is
a reduction/removal of import duties
on products. What this does is create
competition by luring new companies
to import and prices are kept low by
market demand and supply. For those
of you who do not know, there are
companies that import brown sugar
and flour which carry an import duty
of 40 per cent, but yet companies
import these items and manage to
sell cheaper, in some cases, than the
companies that import via Caricom
arrangement. The same obtains for
rice, which carries a 25 per cent
In short, how can any importer of
similar products compete?
Who do we address the issue with?
I have already complained to the
Ministry of Trade verbally. Should I
seek out a good lawyer to sue the
Government for loss of income
because of this policy?
Do we have to look forward to this
every holiday and from future gov-
Should I ask my bankers to give me
a break because I cannot sell this
month and the next?
Should I also start a fast to protest?
In seeking to garner publicity to
show that they are serving the people,
they have overlooked what is fair and
beneficial to all concerned, small busi-
Roger D Gopaul
Discounts on oil, flour
unfair to small businesses
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