Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 24th 2015 Contents Asked how she planned to reduce her food bill,
Mary said it would be hard to cut anything because
everything on her list is a "necessity." Even buying
a tin of crix is necessary.
"The packs cost $10, five of that is $50 and it will
not even last two weeks. I buy the tin of crix because
I want my daughter to have something to eat when
she come home from school and I am not there. I
don t want her to have to light the stove and some-
times that is breakfast," she said.
Former president of the Supermarkets Association
of T&T (SATT) Balliram Maharaj said the Government
should consider deferring implementation of the new
VAT rates from February 1 "to allow for stakeholders
to fully evaluate the impact and implications of the
proposed measure and to provide their contributions
as to its timing."
He said, if this is done, it will ensure that "these
new VATable food items will not hurt the middle and
lower income segments of our society."
Maharaj is also of the view that because of the
decline in oil and gas prices, the Government should
consider "whether the timing of the delivery of the
campaign promise to include VAT on selected food
items previously zero-rated may be inopportune."
When the minister presented the 2016 budget last
October, Imbert estimated that VAT collections would
increase to $12.36 billion this year, from the revised
estimate of $6.70 billion in 2015. Maharaj wondered
whether this is achievable given that several "luxury"
items---which previously attracted 15 per cent VAT---
are now being reduced. These include: alcohol, cig-
arettes, motor vehicles and furniture.
The good news for consumers, though, is that the
reduction in VAT on these items should result in a
reduction in prices. Your utility bills may also see a
small dip. They currently carry 15 per cent VAT, when
it comes down to 12.5 per cent you should benefit.
So, for example, if your telephone bill is $300, you
currently pay $45 in VAT. From February 1, when the
12.5 per cent rate takes effect, that should be reduced
In its analysis of the measures, Ernst and Young
(E&Y) noted that a reduction in zero-rated and exempt
items is in keeping with recommended best practice
of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because
it ought to improve the administrative efficiency of
the VAT system.
E&Y recommended that given the revenue fallout
in VAT revenues as a result of the rate reduction,
there is need for a broadening of the VAT base whereby
goods and services which are zero-rated or exempt
are re-characterised to standard rated supplies subject
The accounting firm noted that the proposed
decrease in the VAT rate may "not redound to the
benefit of the final consumer unless suppliers adjust
Imbert said both the Consumer Affairs Division
and the Ministry of Finance would publish the prices
of goods affected by the changes to the VAT schedule
in an attempt to embarrass business owners who
attempt to raise prices indiscriminately.
He has also indicated that the ultimate aim is to
simplify the system because according to him "exemp-
tions create avenues for cheating."
JANUARY 24 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | SBG5
Young professionals should
invest in a pension plan
early in their careers rather
than waiting until they get
older. That s the advice
from newly appointed
managing director of Assuria Life T&T Ltd,
He explained that pension plans and
annuities are not affected by recession, so
they are better than having a deposit in the
"Remember you are looking at getting
your money down the line."
The idea behind pension plans is that the
customer must be making continuous pay-
ments, even if those payments are reduced,
"If you buy a pension plan when you are
25 years old and you pay $200 every month,
40 years later when you are retiring that
$200 is big money. It is a huge amount
because the interest compounds. Anybody
who is in a pension plan now, do not give
In the event of retrenchment, Henriques
explained, workers with pension plans can
ask their provider for a hold on payments,
so when they get another job, they can resume
"People are cashing in their pension plans
saying that things are real bad. Things don t
get better when you cash in your pension.
When it comes to retirement you will have
even less money."
Pension plan premiums can be as little as
$200 a month, said the insurance executive,
whose advice is for a worker to put aside at
least 10 per cent of salary.
"If you use Assuria, we contribute five per
cent and the employee contributes five per
cent and it ends up being the pension plan.
What you are contributing is five per cent.
"What you need to do is take five per cent
of your regular salary that you take home
and put it there, so what you are getting is
15 per cent which over 20 years, 25 years
adds up to a good pension."
Depending on investment returns, that
individual can take early retirement, Henriques
It is up to the individual to decide the
highest contribution that can be made to the
pension plan, he said, but tax relief stops at
Not worried about recession
Assuria came into the T&T market last
March after acquiring 77 per cent share-
holding in Mega Insurance Company---
15,791,682 of that company s issued shares.
Henriques said the Assuria Group, which
is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year,
expects to achieve 10 per cent growth in
this market. The company wrote just under
$30 million in life insurance premiums in
T&T this year, adding to the US$150 million
in premiums written across the Assuria
He said the focus is currently on providing
improved customer service since the com-
pany wants to become a "boutique" insurer
offering products must match their client s
Henriques, who sat down for an interview
with the Business Guardian at company s
offices at 49 Dundonald Street, Port of
Spain, gave an insight into their strategic
He said the recession will not affect
Assuria. While commercial banks are offering
their clients less than one per cent on
deposits, Assuria s pension plan customers
are getting between 2.5 per cent and three
per cent interest.
Henriques highlighted the savings aspect
of a life insurance policy.
"You buy a life insurance policy to cover
your life, then you can put money into the
investment side and we invest it. That
money is accumulated into your fund."
When that customer dies, the company
pays the life insurance plus the money in
He said: "Buying at 40 and accumulating
your money from 40 to 60 is not enough
time. Not only that, at 40 to 60 your chil-
dren are going to school. You need money
for them. Your biggest expense is them.
"Your lowest expenses are when you are
20 to 30: you are not married, you are at
home. When you are 50, when the kids
leave, you have free money again."
Overall Henriques said there are "great"
opportunities to be made in recessions.
Brand recognition, a major goal
One of the main goals of the company
is greater brand recognition and confidence
in the company, especially by the younger
members of the workforce in T&T.
Henriques said Assuria has less than one
per cent of the T&T s market but wants to
increase its share to three per cent.
"The first thing we want to do is change
the company s culture. We are vibrant. We
are going to that next level. We are going
to be here for the long haul."
There are plans to re-open the Arima
branch, located at Shops of Arima, as a
"We will be going into that kind of oper-
ation where we would have service centres
throughout the country."
Henriques added: "If things go better
than expected we will actually be hiring
internal staff. Definitely we will not be laying
off. We will be maintaining the staff that
In 2016, five managers will be retiring
from the company.
Money laundering laws
Henriques expressed concern that the
requirements in current money laundering
laws are over regulated.
"We have 20,000 clients so we had to
post out 20,000 letters asking them to come
in and fill out these forms. It costs $5 a
letter to post, so you are talking about
$100,000. Not looking at the money but
the paper usage; that s not good for the
He said every insurer in the market has
to do the retroactive checking---updating
customer files---every three years but the
process has gone overboard.
In terms of date on the insurance sector,
Henriques said the situation is "getting bet-
ter", with data coming from the Central
Bank, the Association of T&T Insurance
companies and sometimes the Central Sta-
However, he is recommending a review
of the method by which the data was col-
affected by recession
Assuria's T&T chief: Best
investment for young professionals
From Page 4
PHOTO: MARCUS GONSALES
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