Lyder: Government must clarify VAT refund to manufacturers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

UNC Senator Damian Lyder makes a point during the UNC press conference on Sunday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –

Opposition Senator Damian Lyder has called on the Finance Minister to “come clean” and give the nation “actual facts and figures” as well as what will be done regarding the settlement of outstanding (value-added tax) VAT refunds to manufacturers.

Lyder added, “It is the private sector, despite of the gross mismanagement of this government, that has been that one beacon of light that has held our economy together, while government has dropped the ball in every other sector.”

“The government has completely decimated the energy sector and now it is going after the manufacturing sector.”

Lyder, the UNC’s shadow minister for finance, trade, agriculture, and tourism, made the comments on Sunday.

On Tuesday in the Senate, Minister Colm Imbert said the Government owes 7.8 billion in VAT refunds. In paying, Cabinet agreed to issue VAT bonds in the aggregate sum of $3 billion.

Lyder quoted a newspaper article in which the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce welcomed the payout. However, the chamber raised questions saying the bond and cash payments do not settle the full value of $7.8 billion owed to businessmen.

The chamber called for clarification on how the arrears will be paid.

Lyder recalled, “When the minister was asked a follow-up question on the non-compliance VAT gap and when government will be dealing with it, his response was, ‘We are almost there’.”

“The government is boasting of a fiscal surplus, yet they are owing $7.8 billion to manufacturers,” Lyder said.

In December, via a media statement, Imbert announced the ministry achieved $1.08 billion in fiscal surplus in 2022. The ministry said it was the first time in 14 years it had achieved a fiscal surplus.

Lyder said Government’s failure to pay all outstanding money on time “is nothing short of abuse against the private sector.”

He also accused Government of systemically removing liquidity from the system, hurting manufacturers and their expansion capabilities.