Imbert hopes for full reopening in 2022

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Colm Imbert –

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert remains optimistic that the economy will be fully reopened in 2022. He expressed this optimism when he opened the budget debate in the Senate on Monday. The House of Representatives passed the budget on October 15 with all 22 Government MPs voting for it while all 19 Opposition MPs abstained.

Imbert said, “This budget is in the context of a full reopening of the economy in the year 2022.”

He added this is “dependent on the success of our vaccination programme.”

Imbert said, based on regular updates from Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, he observed that within the last two days “we crossed the threshhold of 40 per cent of the our population being fully vaccinated.”

While children under 12 years are currently unable to be vaccinated with a World Health Organization (WHO)-approved vaccine, Imbert said when this is factored into the number of fully vaccnated in Trinidad and Tobago, it means “the actual numbers of persons…the actual percentages of persons between the ages of 12 upwards, is significantly more than 40 per cent.”

Imbert reminded senators that when he presented the budget in the House on October 4, he said one million doses of WHO-approved vaccines had been administered to people in TT at that time. “The number continues to increase on a regular basis and it is significantly more than one milllion at this time.”

Imbert said the 609,136 people have been partially vaccinated and 564,703 fully vaccinated, as of October 15. He added that TT is ahead of a lot of countries in its efforts to vaccinate as much of its population against covid19 that it could.

Reiterating that covid19 vaccination will continue into next year, Imbert said, “We have more than enough vaccines to do that. We still have approximately 800,000 doses of approved WHO vaccines in stock.” He added, “We also have access to a significant additional number of covid19 WHO-approved vaccines if such is required.”

Imbert said those included Johnson & Johnson single shot vaccines. ‘Over 600,000 of those are still available to us.”

He also said covid19 vaccines are available through donations from countries such as the United States.

Imbert said the issue now is vaccine hesitancy.

‘But I have observed that, since the US announced that it will accept all WHO-approved vaccines as an essential prerequisite for travelling to the US, there has certainly been an uptick in vaccination and one hopes that this will continue.”

He welcomed TT’s removal from the United Kingdom’s covid19 red list of countries. Imbert said recent comments from UK High Commissioner to TT Harriet Cross suggest the possiblility of additional covid19 relaxations over time.

Imbert identified the covid19 safe-zone initiative launched on October 11 and assistance in the budget for small and medium enterprises affected by the pandemic, as some of the strategies being employed towards a full reopening of the economy.

Imbert reiterated efficient tax collection with the help of the new TT Revenue Authority, $500 million from a properly regulated gaming industry and property tax, were some of the strategies being used to generate revenue.

On property tax, Imbert said information is being gathered at this time, with respect to the collection of residential, commercial and agricultural property tax. He added that exercise is being driven by the ministry’s valuations division “in order to create what is called the valuation rolls.”

Imbert reiterated this needed to be done before property tax is collected. “We have to reach 50 per cent of the number of properties in the different categories…whether it is residential.. agricultural…commercial.”

He said data is not being collected on industrial properties at this time. ” Industrial (properties) will come afterwards…maybe later in the year.”

Imbert said if someone owns a property for which they get rent of $3,000 per month or $36,000 per year, the tax could be $80 to $90 per month. For properties which attract a rent of $10,000 per month, Imbert said that tax could be approximately $250 per month.