PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday October 3, 2017 – The cost of living in Trinidad and Tobago is expected to rise even further as Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday presented a Budget laden with taxes to revive Government’s flagging economic fortunes.
Declaring that the twin-island republic was weathering “unusual times” which called for “serious adjustment for all”, Imbert spared no section of society as he detailed the TT$50.5 billion (US$7.4 billion) austerity package.
Among the fiscal measures, consumers were immediately hit with a hike in the price of super gasoline from $3.58 per litre to $3.97 and diesel from $2.30 per litre to $3.41.
Motorists will also have to pay more for tyres with the introduction of a $20 environmental tax on every tyre and a 30 per cent custom duty on all imported tyres.
Minister Imbert also announced that vehicle inspection station fees were increased from $165 to $300 along with a new tax regime for hybrid vehicles and those of smaller sizes, designed to prevent leakage of tax revenue.
He said some people had used tax waivers on hybrids to import luxury vehicles, adding that some 35,000 vehicles were imported in 2017 costing the country US$500 million in foreign exchange.
In a bid to rake in more revenue, Government has slapped a ten per cent tax on the windfall of lottery winners, effective December 1. Cash winnings are currently tax-free.
The biggest blow, however, was dealt to the inadequately regulated private gambling and gaming industry. Electronic roulette devices in bars will attract a flat fee of $120,000, and 11 sets of taxes on gaming tables at clubs were hiked.
“Measures will be strictly enforced,” Imbert warned, as he raised concern that the emergence of online gambling costs was resulting in outflows of US$200 million annually.
Commercial banks did not escape the tax grab. Bank charges are now likely to rise with the introduction of a 35 per cent tax on commercial banks and a base tax rate of 30 per cent on all companies.
The Finance Minister also delivered not-so-good news for the medical sector. Private hospitals which previously paid a fee of $150 for a licence to operate will now pay increases ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.
He stressed that this measure, which takes effect from January 1, 2018, will not apply to hospitals for the convalescent or chronically ill, homes for the elderly, or hospitals for any designated disease or specified disease, disorder or illness.
Penalties for offences under the Private Hospitals Act will also increase from $10,000 to $100,000 and for any continuing offence from $200 per day to $1,500 per day.
The Government also served notice that hikes in electricity and water rates were on the way. Imbert explained that the Regulated Industries Commission was set to conduct a rate-determination exercise for the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission and the Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago to be completed by next year.
Education and Training (TT$7.29 billion) received the lion’s share of this year’s budgetary allocations, followed by National Security (TT$6.23 billion) and Health (TT$6 billion).