SJBA, JCC want details on inflation recovery, procurement in 2023 budget

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

San Juan Business Association president Jason Roach –

THE San Juan Business Association (SJBA) and the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) both hope Finance Minister Colm Imbert will shine a spotlight on several aspects of the economy when he presents the 2022/2023 budget in the House of Representatives on September 26.

Imbert announced this date as budget day during the Spotlight on the Economy which his ministry hosted at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on Friday.

In a statement, SJBA president Jason Roach commended the ministry for the event.

“It has given stakeholders an opportunity to put the budget into context and to allow for a more prudent conversation. The economy appears to be recovering within the global context. “

But Roach said the business community remains concerned about inflation, in the context of increased energy prices.

“Highlights showed that social grants, WASA subsidy, TTEC subsidy, as well as fuel; the man on the street will inevitably feel the pressure of inflation.”

Roach was also concerned about the state of wage negotiations between the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and trade unions.

“It must also be noted that the current debacle with CPO and trade unions wage negotiations has been estimated that four per cent will cost the county $2.6 billion. This is certainly a burden on taxpayers dollars and the bottom line is that we are paying for an item that isn’t yielding optimum utility and performance.”

Roach listed some items the SJBA hoped would be focused on in the budget.

They include road repair and rehabilitation, value-added tax (VAT) returns, foreign exchange (forex) availability, incentives to drive growth on exports and infrastructural development.

While the association eagerly awaits the budget’s presentation in three weeks time, Roach said, “We will continue articulating our position with our membership at this time.”

In a separate statement, the JCC for the construction industry president, Fazir Khan, wants to hear more details about public procurement legislation.

Khan said the last information the JCC heard on this issue was on June 22, when Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, said that Government could not proceed with full operationalisation of the legislation as several outstanding matters needed to be dealt with.

He said the JCC asked the Prime Minister for an update on this matter during the event on Friday.

JCC president Fazir Khan. –

Khan said Dr Rowley indicated that he did not agree that procurement reform has the potential to save TT billions of dollars.

“For this, he relied on his recent discussions with the Jamaican Prime Minister (Andrew Holness), in which the latter indicated that in the Jamaica experience, it led to higher costs and more delays in the sphere of smaller scale procurement.”

Khan said the JCC can find no evidence for this statement. He suggested that TT should compare itself “to more developed countries if we aspire to achieve significant improvement in our systems.”

Khan said, “No stakeholder has ever claimed that procurement legislation, when operationalised, would be a magic wand to change corruption associated with public spending.”

He added, ” Operationalisation of the legislation would simply facilitate real oversight by an independent body, the OPR (Office of the Procurement Regulator) that is now ably equipped with the human and technological resources to execute their primary function under the Public Procurement and Property Disposal Act.”

Khan acknowledged that “everyone understands that the process of change will continue to be slow before the country realises the benefit of reduced corruption through increased efficiency, independent oversight and transparency.”

He reiterated the JCC’s call for Rowley to liaise with Armour on the details of the outstanding matters delaying the operationalisation of public procurement legislation, so the public can know when this will happen.