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Experts concerned about challenges ahead
The T&T economy has turned around but the country is not yet out of the woods, so indicators should be continuously monitored, economist Dr Roger Hosein advised yesterday.
The senior lecturer and head of UWI’s Trade and Economic Development Unit warned that celebrating recovery prematurely has consequences. He called for careful monitoring of indicators such as unemployment, rising debt levels and interest payments.
In his contribution to a panel discussion at AmCham T&T’s analysis of the Mid-Year Budget Review at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, Mt Hope, Hosein pointed out that between 2007 and 2017 the economy grew just 0.02 per cent.
His concerns were echoed by AmCham T&T CEO Nirad Tewarie, who said T&T has not “turned the corner completely” in terms of an economic recovery.
He also expressed concern about the tax regime and warned that any increases in rates for businesses could tear into their competitiveness and make the country unattractive for investment.
It is also difficult to stimulate economic activity if Government is not paying its bills, Tewarie said.
“The fact that Government is not paying its bills on time—not just VAT refunds, I am talking about actual bills—is a challenge and it’s something that we need to have addressed,” he said
Tewarie called for improvements to systems and policies at Customs and Excise and elsewhere.
“If you want to stimulate business activity, we need horizontal policy reforms. We need reforms in industrial relations, in labour laws, we need reforms in customs, we need tax reforms, and the things that will allow any business to do better and operate more efficiently.
“Unless we are doing that, we really are in a situation of cash flow management and fighting fires, therefore we would be unable to plan for real sustainable economic growth,” he said.
Tewarie also expressed concern about the ongoing deficit.
Angelique Bart, a partner at M Hamel-Smith and Company, wondered how growth could be achieved and whether it would be sustainable since the country had not experienced growth in three years.
She suggested that doubles vendors and taxi drivers be taxed and others who are not complying with tax requirements be dealt with. Overall, she said, all options should be explored before resorting to increased taxes.
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