Mid-Year Review: Chamber encouraged but cautious

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce says it is encouraged by some of the issues raised by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the Mid-Year Review but remains cautious as the Minister's optimism is based on energy prices.

The Chamber issued the following statement on the Mid-Year Review:

"The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce notes the optimism expressed by the Minister of Finance in today’s Mid-Year Budget Review.

However, we remain somewhat cautious as the optimism is largely based on increases in energy production and, more importantly, increases in prices.

While the former was expected, the latter was in excess of the government’s own projections and serves to highlight our continued dependence on energy endowments.

We were nevertheless encouraged by other issues addressed by the Minister.

These included the continued efforts to establish the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority, improved fiscal transparency, the move towards more Public-Private Partnerships and the decision to maintain energy price assumptions from the national budget.

The Revenue Authority in particular, should address the urgent need for institutional reform to ensure a fairer, more efficient revenue collection regime, while publishing fiscal data will lead to better public accountability.

We also believe that Public-Private Partnerships is an effective way forward in order to provide better infrastructure solutions, faster completion of projects and better allocation of risks.

The National Investment Fund (NIF) which will see the first issue of shares in June 2018, is certainly a point of interest and we look forward to seeing the outcome.

It is imperative that there should be a high level of transparency and good governance, particularly with respect to the value of the shares.

We are also interested in the balance of the shares which are not earmarked for the NIF.

However, the continued energy-dependency leaves T&T open to fluctuations due to external events over which we have no control.

We would have liked the Minister’s presentation to have been focused more on transformational measures.

While we appreciate that the Minister could not speak to every issue in detail, we hope that other major issues such as economic diversification will be addressed subsequently, with more specifics.

Additionally, given the current optimistic outlook, we expect that the issue of VAT refunds to businesses will now be addressed expeditiously.

In order to transform our economy, Government must embrace its role as a facilitator.

Over the coming months, the T&T Chamber will continue its dialogue with the Administration as we relay our members' key issues in the lead-up to the 2018/2019 national budget."

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