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Chamber budget wish list
As the 2017-2018 fiscal year draws to a close, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce would like to highlight five critical areas which we recommend be addressed in the 2018-2019 national budget.
1 Stabilising the inter-island transportation system
The importance of the provision of a commercially best-in-class, efficient, and cost-effective air and seabridge cannot be overstated. Acknowledging the recent, long-awaited arrival of the Galleon’s Passage to our shores, we advocate for further investment in the inter-island transportation structure to ensure that its capacity consistently meets demand, adequately managing both peak time traffic and regular commute between the islands.
2 Reducing crime
Crime, now an ever-looming threat to daily life, affects the general public’s sense of safety and damages the country’s economic performance. According to a recent International Development Bank (IDB) report, T&T spends approximately 3.52 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on crime prevention.
A significant reduction in crime rates will not only improve citizens’ quality of life, but also boost productivity—outcomes that are supported by an April 2018 International Monetary Fund (IMF) Regional Economic Outlook Report, which cites that our country’s GDP growth rate would increase by 0.3 per cent should the homicide rate match that of the global average. T&T’s murder rate is currently about three times higher; a clear indication of the critical need for increased investment in effective crime control measures.
3 Improving opportunities for trade in services
The local services sector holds immense opportunity for increased trade. Modern technological advancements mean that it is now more feasible than ever before for services to be provided remotely, creating a viable avenue for increased foreign exchange earnings. The T&T Chamber believes it is essential to provide greater financial and technical support for the development of the services sector via training and advocacy; this will benefit the country by giving local entrepreneurs the ability to take greater advantage of existing trade agreements.
4 Revitalising the SME Stock Exchange
Investment is key in supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and a simple but effective way in which to do this is through the revitalisation of the SME stock exchange.
Companies which list on this exchange stand to benefit from increased access to capital and improved governance structures. However, despite the exchange being in existence since fiscal 2011-2012, local businesses remain wary, as they are unsure of the requirements for—and potential benefits of—listing.
It is therefore essential to provide funding support for educational programmes and promotional campaigns about the SME stock exchange.
5 Encouraging investment in start-ups and small businesses
The most robust global economies recognise the importance of SMEs to economic health and competitiveness, but locally, there is a startling lack of capital investment in start-ups and growing SMEs.
Many entrepreneurs struggle to access funding through the traditional banking sector, which creates an opportunity for other types of investment, especially through private capital.
One particularly viable method is angel investment, which allows private investors to provide new businesses and established SMEs with much needed capital and, quite often, mentorship. Successful angel investor networks include the Business Angels Investment Network in the United Kingdom, Malaysia’s Business Angel Network, and the Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN), which is Caribbean-based.
Still, there remains a need for government support in creating an enabling environment to encourage and facilitate such investments. This can be done by creating tax incentives for entities that wish to invest in start-ups. Table 1 provides some examples of how other countries have incentivised investment in new and growing businesses.
T&T is in a process of economic change and the national budget will underpin how the government plans to effect that change.
Sometime within the next few weeks, the Minister of Finance will make one of the most significant budget presentations our country will ever have and, as has become traditional, this will be closely followed by the T&T Chamber’s popular Post-Budget Forum, where industry champions and thought leaders will converge to present incisive analysis.
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