The Tobago Business Chamber is calling for the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from goods on the island.
“If the 12.5 per cent VAT is removed it will encourage greater investment in Tobago. Persons will come and set up businesses or come to retire,” Chamber head Martin George said in an audio response to the 2019/2020 Budget.
George, who had mixed reviews to the budgetary measures announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday, applauded the increase in wages for CEPEP and URP workers but criticised the lack of action on the Foreign Investment Act which restricts the acreages of land, number of shares, debentures and directorships non-nationals can hold.
He said he was “disappointed to see the bulk of Tobago’s allocation go towards gratuitous spending” as “90 per cent” went to recurrent expenditure.
‘(This) leaves very little left for capital expenditure, infrastructural development and investment in building up the businesses which will build the capacity of Tobago,” George said.
He said Government should place greater emphasis on capital expenditure, thereby allowing the private sector to grow and create more jobs.
George was happy to see an increase in the minimum wage and salaries for CEPEP and URP workers and initiatives such as daycare facilities for single mothers and the construction of 6,000 new homes. He said he hoped Tobagonians are part of the housing initiative.
While he was pleased about plans to build a new hospital at Roxborough, George called on Central Government to address the challenges at the Scarborough General Hospital.
“We are calling upon the Minister of Finance, we are calling upon the THA, to lobby the Government to have that Act repealed. With that Act repealed you will have an inflow of investment into the island. It’s also going to assist with the foreign investment problem,” he said.
As it relates to interisland travel, George called for better management of the air and sea bridge.
“Make that tourism experience begin from the time you enter the port. They need to provide proper wifi. They need to provide proper restaurants, proper facilities so that people can relax while they are awaiting their ferries,” he said.