UNC Senator Damian Lyder. –
IF Government cannot fix three burning issues — paying outstanding value-added tax (VAT) refunds; the ease of doing business; and ensuring an equitable distribution of foreign exchange — then any other proposals in its budget would fall barren. There would be nothing for the people.
UNC Senator Damian Lyder made this comment during the Opposition’s weekly Sunday press briefing in Port of Spain. Lyder is the UNC’s shadow minister for finance and trade.
Lyder and Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally spoke about the “collapse of the criminal justice system and the economy.” The event was streamed live on UNC’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Lyder cited newspaper articles that quoted Tricia Coosal, president of the TT Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA), calling on the Government to pay VAT refunds to manufacturers.
Lyder said he has been clamouring, in the Senate and during budget debates, for Government to get in line with a timely repayment to the businesses and stakeholders. He accused Government of not prioritising the issue yet boasting of achieving a fiscal balance.
He also claimed that Finance Minister Colm Imbert had “stonewalled” the private sector. He said members’ attempts for full disclosure regarding the total amount of VAT owed to manufacturers have failed.
TTMA’s estimation of “over $140 million” still outstanding to TTMA members, Lyder said, was a conservative figure.
“We know from previous debates the number could amount to billions of dollars owing in VAT refunds to all stakeholders,” Lyder said. “The non-payment serves as yet another stumbling block in attracting foreign direct investors into this country.”
He called on Government to fix the ease of doing business, adding that getting approvals from utility companies, getting financing from banks, and dealing with issues in the port are daily burdens.
“These continue to become burdens and worsen over the months and years ahead. Every businessman in this country can attest to this.”
To Imbert, Lyder said: “Come clean with the nation, be transparent with the people and the private sector.”