LINKAGE Q2 (2023) - CATAPULT
ecent economic activity in Trinidad and
Tobago has shown signs of recovery due to high global energy prices and the
rebound in the non-energy sector in 2023, which augurs well for the country’s
economic prospects in the immediate future. However, in its 2023-2024 National
Budget Recommendations submitted to the Ministry of Finance in August 2023,
AMCHAM T&T stated that systemic issues such as rising crime, foreign
exchange shortage, supply chain bottlenecks and food insecurity continue to
threaten the nation's economic stability, the rate of recovery and the standard
of living our citizenry enjoys.
“Our economic policymaking at this time
must take an approach that underscores a mixture of proposals to address debt
sustainability, economic diversification to boost the non-energy sectors, the
effectiveness of tax collections, and incentives for foreign direct investments
across all sectors.”
Against this backdrop, AMCHAM T&T’s 2023-2024
budget recommendations propose measures to rebuild and stabilise the economy,
increase the country’s resilience, enhance social development and strengthen
the business environment to improve the overall quality of life for every
citizen through policy recommendations in five (5) thematic areas. These are:
Ease of Doing Business
Environment, Social, and
While AMCHAM T&T applauds the work
being done by the Government to develop a National Digital Transformation
Strategy, the report outlined the following recommendations to help ensure the
successful and effective implementation of this strategy:
The creation and implementation
of an ICT skills development and education policy that enables global ICT
competitiveness in select sub-sectors. AMCHAM T&T says these programmes
should span primary schools, secondary schools, tertiary level institutions and
workplaces, where private sector organisations like AMCHAM T&T and universities
can be engaged to develop programmes to quickly develop the critical mass of
designers, coders and analysts required.
A unified and coordinated
approach to the completion and adoption of the following policies and the
establishment of any new ones required should be incorporated:
GORTT Asset Management
Open Government Policy
Cloud Computing (Cloud options
e-Government Omnibus Technical
ISO/IEC 27000 series
Open Source Policy
Establish and operationalise a
data interoperability framework to allow for greater participation from the
private sector in developing solutions to support citizen service delivery and
accelerate the Government’s digital transformation agenda.
Design a comprehensive change
management strategy and communications plan for engaging stakeholder groups
within and outside the Government that may be affected by the implementation of
e-services. The report says this will include an inclusive, gender-informed
communications plan to address the need to communicate with people affected by
the process, system and structural changes created by the implementation.
Implement a National Unique
Identifier and Legal Digital Identity. While AMCHAM T&T acknowledges that this
was announced in the 2022 National Budget, and work is ongoing in the
development of the framework for its implementation, the Chamber recommends the
Government take advantage of the digital transformation occurring in different
divisions of the public sector to begin the implementation of the e-ID.
Develop a National Cyber
Security Strategy to better secure data and prevent unauthorised access. To
achieve this, AMCHAM T&T recommends implementing the amendments made by the
private sector to the cybercrime bill; updating the cyber security policy to
govern how data is collected, used, stored and secured; and building capacity
through training for persons implementing, using and being affected by the
Implement a Digital Nomad Visa
- With the wide range of technologies available for remote work and the
COVID-19 pandemic providing proof of concept for remote work, AMCHAM T&T
would like to see Trinidad and Tobago embark on implementing Digital Nomad
Visas to allow foreign nationals to live and work in the country. This system
would allow said persons to contribute to the economy through their expenditure
on rentals, living and work accommodations, food and social activities during
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
In dealing with the ease of doing business,
AMCHAM T&T believes the express parcel industry is an important component
of the country’s competitiveness. Therefore, the Chamber says it is critical
that Customs immediately implement and use the risk assessment module of
ASYCUDA and re-implement the 2011 procedure of clearing commercial shipments
valued at TT$20,000 or below without an entry.
AMCHAM T&T would also like to see the
Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority be charged with Customs reform and focus
on the following as key performance indicators:
Improve the security of the
border through collaborative intelligence and risk management, for example the
Modernisation of Non-intrusive Inspections or Improve risk assessment/Reduce
the need for physical inspection by customs.
Optimise revenue collection
through modernised technology and best practice standards.
Improve trade facilitation by
streamlining customs procedures in accordance with international standards
including the Harmonised System Implementation 2022.
Improve the professionalism and
well-being of staff.
Increase automation and digitalisation
for effective and efficient customs supervision.
Other measures proposed to ensure the ease
of doing business at Customs include setting a de minimus value of US$400 to
ensure a much more efficient system to increase the collection of much-needed
revenue; replacing Online Purchase Tax (OPT) with the implementation of a flat
$40 fee; fully automating the Customs process and functionally integrating with
TTBizLink; and revamping Customs hours and redesigning locations to increase
the efficiency at the Piarco International Airport and the sea ports.
CROSS-CUTTING EoDB ISSUES
Other cross-cutting Ease of Doing Business
issues addressed in the report were:
Develop a comprehensive
migration policy with a view to meeting the needs of increased development
without over-burdening social services.
Support R&D in private
companies through the allowance of a write-off of 75% of the working capital
used to support innovation against chargeable income tax, up to a limit of 2%
of a company’s annual revenue in the prior year.
Implement a procedure for an
Advanced Tax Ruling System.
Implement the Special Economic
Zone legislation, inclusive of the development of the appropriate regulations,
taking into consideration private sector input to ensure practicality by
Address the VAT Refund System.
While AMCHAM T&T acknowledges the
efforts being made to pay off some of the outstanding VAT refunds, the Chamber
is of the view that the current system does not allow for the timely settlement
of VAT refunds. AMCHAM T&T recommends the Government use a separate system
from income and corporation taxes to ensure that funds are available from the
VAT collected to issue VAT refunds. Also, AMCHAM T&T is advising the Board
of Inland Revenue to send notices indicating when taxes are outstanding on its
system and provide sufficient time for taxpayers to respond with a view to
considering the response of the taxpayer to allow for the easy cash flow of
AMCHAM T&T continues to be concerned
about the crime situation and its significant and growing negative impact on
the business activities of its member companies and the lives of citizens of
Trinidad and Tobago. The report says addressing the issue of crime must be a
priority of the Government and recommends the following initiatives:
Ensuring the Police Service
Commission set targets for the Commissioner of Police that are rigorously
measured and reported on every quarter.
Achieve state-of-the-art DNA
testing on a routine basis, update equipment at the Forensic Science Centre and
develop higher qualified staff.
A proper maintenance plan for
all equipment used for crime detection and enforcement – Motor Vehicles – CCTV
Systems – Speed Guns – Breathier Equipment – digital fingerprint systems.
Digital Transformation of the
Homicide Bureau of Investigations and the TTPS.
Invest more in Community
Strengthen the Judiciary by
setting targets and publishing data around the turnaround time for cases to be
heard, reducing the gap between arrest and sentencing, digitisation of case
files with the option to transfer cases from one Justice to another in the
event of death, retirement etc.
In managing white-collar crime, the report
says it would be beneficial if a national policy is created and implemented for
both public and private sector organisations to adopt for whistleblowing.
Additionally, other measures include greater training for joint collaboration
with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Judicial system to adopt
international best practices or best practices in the interest of the national
community. AMCHAM T&T also recommends appointing a substantive director of
the FIU and ensuring adequate resourcing of the Unit; strengthening the Fraud
Squad through the provision of training and resources to improve the detection
rate; and addressing resourcing deficiencies of the Office of the Director of
AMCHAM T&T recommends a comprehensive
energy sector strategy that addresses measures to maximise productivity and
profitability and promotes the transition to renewable and energy-efficient
practices. Some of the policy recommendations entail measures to accelerate the
development of on- and offshore oil resources in the shortest possible time
frame; increase exploration and development work in shallow water maturing gas
fields; grant incentives to increase exploration in deep water; and implement measures
to support and promote energy services as an export product.
AMCHAM T&T is also proposing recommendations to position T&T to be well
placed in the energy transition by incentivising existing operators in the
upstream and downstream to make investments required to reduce emissions with a
view to creating less carbon-intensive energy exports. Additionally, AMCHAM
T&T is supporting further development and investment in hydrogen; the
development of EV charging networks across the islands; incentivising
investment in energy efficiency, e.g., reduction or removal of taxes on LED
bulbs; and establishing a regionally recognised carbon pricing/trading scheme
to incentivise investment in low carbon opportunities, inter alia.
ENVIRONMENT, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE (ESG)
A big feature of AMCHAM T&T’s 2023-2024
Budget Recommendations has to do with Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) measures.
The report says ESG is a growing movement that would force companies,
industries and Governments to seek more sustainable ways to create economic
value by taking into account not only profit but also people and planet.
AMCHAM T&T believes this can be
accomplished through various tax incentives with proper implementation and
monitoring guidelines to supplement its value and success. Therefore, the
Chamber is asking the Government to consider allocating a budget to begin
developing a framework that systematically evaluates and integrates ESG factors
into the formulation of national budget recommendations as part of a wider
commitment to ESG engagement in the public sector. The report says this framework
will serve as a guideline for government agencies and decision-makers to
prioritise investments and allocate resources toward sustainable development,
social inclusivity and effective governance.
“By embracing this proposal, AMCHAM T&T
believes the government will demonstrate its commitment to addressing
environmental challenges, promoting social equity, and strengthening governance
AMCHAM T&T’s 2023–2024 National Budget
Recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Finance in August 2023. The 27-page
report outlines the major policy actions that AMCHAM T&T believes will increase
T&T’s resilience, attract local and foreign capital to rebuild and
stabilise the economy, enhance social development and strengthen the business
environment to improve the overall quality of life for every citizen.
In light of this, AMCHAM T&T says it is
committed to collaborating and working with the Government of Trinidad and
Tobago on these initiatives which are outlined to have clear objectives to
ensure the quality of life and social harmony remain prerequisites to building
a more attractive business environment and sustaining long-term economic
the FULL REPORT