Trinidad and Tobago - Budget 2002
In a most bizarre irony,
Budget 2002 in Trinidad & Tobago was presented by a UNC Government whose
very future hangs in the balance at a time when the economy of the twin
island state was at its strongest. The Budget was presented on Friday
September 14, three days after the events in New York and Washington D.C,
the impact of which continues to have aftershocks which are reshaping and
realigning the world. Finance Minister, Mr. Gerald Yetming, must have
already completed his Budget Speech prior to these earth-shattering events
and in a subsequent report in that country’s Guardian newspaper he
admitted that “the timing of the attacks made it virtually impossible to
fully factor them into the Budget”.
Showing a complete
awareness of the implications of September 11 on his Budget, he said that
the Government recognised that events in the global economy had the
potential to dampen the country's short-term economic growth and has told
his country’s Senate that the Government's projected outlook of five per
cent expansion in 2001 and 2002, needs to be reassessed in the light of
recent global developments.
In Business Page today,
with the kind permission of Ernst and Young Caribbean, we look at some of
the highlights of that speech and consider the implications of September 11
on the Budget. The rate of exchange is approximately TT$6.25 to US$1.
2002 Budget Measures
The corporation tax rate will be reduced from 35% to 34%.
The personal income tax rate will be reduced by 1% at the
various bands, resulting in the rates moving from 28% to 27% and 35% to 34%.
Personal Allowance for persons over 60 years increased from
$30,000 to $36,000.
The 5% tax on interest derived from savings accounts will be
Reduction in Environmental Levy from 0.1% to
Expansion of the list of zero-rated supplies (for VAT) to
include other basic commodities.
The imposition of a penalty for the late filing of VAT returns
of $100 per month.
Removal of stamp duty on Life Insurance Policies and
Removal of the 6% Premium Tax on insurance policies purchased
by persons over 60 years of age.
Imposition of stamp duty at 5% on share transfers executed off
the floor of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange. This is clearly a move
to encourage trading through the Stock Exchange.
A 15% increase in the excise duty on tobacco products, the
import duty on tobacco products imported from Caricom and tobacco tax on
A 15% increase in the excise duty on locally manufactured
alcoholic products and the import duty on alcoholic products imported from
Caricom. Extra-regional imports
will attract increased duties of 30%.
Increase in taxes payable on gambling tables and other devices
Increase in initial allowance for companies qualifying under
the Income Tax (In Aid of Industry) Act from 50% to 60%.
In addition, the companies that qualify for accelerated capital
allowances have been expanded to include all manufacturing companies.
In Guyana, the initial allowance on plant and machinery has for years
been set at 40% and is only available to specified manufacturing activities
set out in the Income Tax (In Aid of Industry) Act.
The Minister has proposed to allow accelerated deductions of
capital expenditure on research and development over a period of five years.
In order to encourage higher levels of investments in the
agricultural sector the government has proposed to amend the existing tax
legislation to introduce:
an initial allowance of 60% or 25% tax deduction with respect to new
capital expenditure; and
tax exemption in respect of interest on approved loans for approved
encourage corporate involvement, a tax allowance of 150% of actual
expenditure incurred up to a maximum of $300,000 for assistance to sportsmen
and sporting activities has been proposed.
Increase in the disability grant from $520 per month to $600
Maintenance and separation allowance and alimony payments will
now be exempt in the hands of the recipient.
Increase in Old age pension from $620 to $700 and $720 to $800
The budget estimates that
during 2000 – 2001 the economy showed growth of 4.2% which reflects a
declining rate of growth when compared to 6.4% for the previous period.
Once again the petrochemical sector is leading with an expected
growth rate of 5.2% (4.6% 2000) and a 23.9% contribution to GDP (24.1%
2000). The non-oil sector while
still representing the larger percentage of GDP, 76.1%, is expected to
experience a declining rate of growth from 6.7% to 4.0% in 2001.
The achievement of the 2001
Budget targets must now be considered highly doubtful for both political and
economic reasons. Three senior
members of the Panday Cabinet have either been fired or have resigned, and
the question is now whether the Government will survive if these persons
vote with the opposition in the National Assembly. Even if by some stroke of
luck the Government does survive, the budget outlook must now be considered
in grave doubt. As Business Page went to press Stabroek News reported that a
deal had been struck between opposition leader Patrick Manning and the three
dissidents from Prime Minister Basdeo Panday’s ruling party.
Anticipating the economic
difficulties, Mr. Yetming said that the overall adjusted outlook for T&T
"seems slightly threatening," and consequently, the 2001-2002
"Budget fundamentals now appear to be in slight jeopardy".
He hinted at deepening problems for an already beleaguered tourism
sector, especially in light of the recent pullout of several major airlines
from the tourism sector. But tourism, he said, is a small contributor to the
Somewhat optimistically, while predicting immense economic consequences
from September 11, Mr. Yetming does not anticipate any significant change to
the price of oil and noted two things in his country’s favour –
contractual arrangements and the low-cost nature of its production.
Realistically however, he has already identified containing
expenditure as one way to deal with the fallout and if necessary, limiting
or suspending expenditure under the Exchequer and Audit Act.
The Minister in his presentation also repeatedly pointed to the need for
tax reform and improvement in the processes at the Trinidad Board of Inland
Revenue. The similarities to the Guyana situation are apparent and while the
establishment of the Guyana Revenue Authority is a step in the right
direction, it should be considered as just the beginning.
Guyana would also do well to emulate Trinidad in terms of the timeliness
of its Budget preparation and presentation and to examine the incentives and
policies which make Trinidad and Tobago a growing powerhouse in the
Caribbean region. A Budget is of only limited value if it is presented after
three months of the year to which it relates have already elapsed.
Even though his Budget could not have anticipated the events of September
11, the Minister’s presentation recognized the need for incentives and
other actions that would provide stimuli to the economy. That is refreshing
when one considers that the Trinidad and Tobago economy was not facing a
recession and had in fact experienced relatively solid growth. This attitude
shows an awareness of the fact that resting on one’s laurels is not an
option today, especially when events in this global economy have such
far-reaching effects that can be devastating to the unprepared.