Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 5th 2015 Contents A5
Monday, October 5, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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Former People s National Movement
(PNM) ministers in finance, Mariano
Browne and Conrad Enill, do not expect
the Dr Keith Rowley-led Government will
be able to immediately implement the 12.5
per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) reduction
promised in the party s 2015 general elec-
Speaking yesterday ahead of today s
Budget delivery by new PNM Finance Min-
ister Colm Imbert, Browne said the public
seemed to be preparing for austerity meas-
ures and he personally expected the Budget
to include a price increase on diesel and
"...But not by much, though I believe
they will have to increase this," Browne
Browne also anticipated a smaller Budget
than the People s Partnership s last package
in terms of expenditure - but couldn t see
the PNM implementing its promised 12.5
per cent VAT reduction.
"I can only see VAT increase if one is
serious about revenue collection," he said.
"But a reduction of VAT would only
mean a reduction of incoming revenue and
also lack of a trickle-down effect to con-
sumers who might not feel that tax reduc-
Browne said PNM s proposed Revenue
Authority, which was likely, might be part
of any fiscal reform regime. He said
improved collection of import/duties taxes
can come via the electronic TT Bizlink.
He also expects reinstatement of property
tax and plans to borrow to undertake the
PNM s proposed rapid rail/transit system.
But Browne was sceptical about whether
the Government would be able to construct
all the highway/roads promised as well as
the rapid rail. He said he d be observing if
Government would tinker with the energy
sector taxation regime.
He projected that some minor manifesto
promises might be kept and a re-tasking
of the URP, CEPEP programmes. "But it s
a question of how this will be achieved,"
Enill said Imbert s job was tough with
the falling oil and gas prices.
"I think he (Imbert) has to go with cau-
tious optimism --- a fine line between keep-
ing the economy going and preserving peo-
ple s quality of life. I don t think he can
afford an austerity Budget at this time," he
Enill too expects a return of property
tax --- but not implementation of PNM s
promised 12.5 per cent VAT reduction.
"You don t have the revenue to be able
to afford that. Also, if you have zero VAT
on items and you re now going to reduce
it to 12.5 per cent, it means you re going
to have to put VAT on products that are
zero-rated and that s not what your inten-
tion is, so how can it be done?" he said.
"Also, if they reduce VAT I m not at all
sure the benefits will go to the customers
since there s no mechanism in place to do
Enill said he expects challenges on the
revenue side due to the oil price, incentives
given to energy companies and collections
and refunds, which would constrain revenue
and set a mark in terms of revenue afford-
He also projected a deficit.
"It s the size, we await. Given we were
in deficits for the last five years, almost
immediately, he d have to find additional
revenue and this can be supported by addi-
tional taxes or borrowings, or using receipts
from the recent Phoenix Park IPO," Enill
Government, he said, will also have to
try to understand the exact expenditure
level, as the costs of some projects - the
Children s Hospital et cetera - haven t yet
arrived and new costs also have to be
worked out, including union agreements
and expected backpay.
Former People s Partnership energy Min-
ister Kevin Ramnarine meanwhile said he
anticipated revenue will be significantly
down in 2016 as compared to 2015, for
obvious reasons concerning energy prices.
Ramnarine projected pegging the Budget
on an oil price of around US$45 and a gas
price of US$2. He said any movement on
the fuel subsidy should be done gradually
and not "yanking it suddenly," which would
lead to inflationary pressures.
Certain labour leaders have called for
business to bear the brunt of revenue sourc-
ing. Clico lobbyists have called for out-
standing payments and the Supermarkets
Association has made calls on certain issues,
including reduced tariffs and downstream
SOCA PARANG SERENADE
Reducing this country s food
import bill is of key impor-
tance and a move which will
be highly anticipated by the
Supermarkets Association as
today s fiscal presentation is
read by Finance Minister Colm
Imbert in Parliament.
The association s president
Dr Yunus Ibrahim, said yester-
day that a cut in the food
import bill would also filter
down positively to other sectors
of the society, resulting in an
increase in production and a
growth of the agriculture sec-
"This would only mean self
sustenance and more strength
for the nation with respect to
supplying its own food...any-
thing to do with the mainte-
nance of low cost of food is
welcomed," Ibrahim, of Ramish
and Leela supermarket, said.
"It also means that employ-
ment would be better. It means
that we can be food secure,
especially in times of crisis,
because we are at the mercy of
food coming in and we need to
develop our downstream agri-
cultural processes, and if you
do that then the country wins."
Ibrahim said another key fac-
tor would be ensuring efficiency
at the ports so that tariffs and
extra charges do not skyrock-
"An efficient port means bet-
ter food prices. There must also
be proper measures to be put
in place for food handling and
training, especially as it relates
to health measures," he said.
On speculation of an increase
in Value Added Tax (VAT),
Ibrahim said this had been
bandied about for some time
but today s budget would prove
if this was in fact true.
He warned, however, that
people must not panic unnec-
"This being bandied about is
only going to raise concerns that
are unnecessary. We have to
hear what the good minister
would have to say," he said.
Ibrahim admitted, however,
that a reduction in the country s
food import bill would not take
place overnight, noting it would
have to be consistently worked
on since a large part in the
reduction would ultimately lie
with the consumer.
"They may want to bring it
down but if it is the local con-
sumer, which is the end user,
... if it is our taste is foreign and
we have allowed it to be devel-
oped so over our lifetime...we
only want what is abroad, so
we will take what is available
based on what is needed. So we
ourselves have to understand
what that means," Ibrahim said.
In using the recent increase
in the price of bread as an
example, he said some people
have now opted to bake rather
than purchase bread.
"We support people who
don t even buy fast food because
when you do that cooking food
at home builds family time,"
Former PNM ministers:
hard to do now
Gary Jackson entertains patrons with his soca parang Happiness during the media launch of South-
style Soca Parang Lime at The Rig restaurant in San Fernando on Friday night.
PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
Supermarkets' boss wants
food import reduction
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