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Saturday, October 21 2017 @ 05:28 PM AST

Citizens face bureaucratic wall at public offices

After bemoaning that the private sector has to struggle with inefficiencies at Customs and Excise, Trinidad and Tobago's Trade Minister Vasant Bharath said, during the June 4 sitting of the Senate, that while the private sector at least has "a voice through the TTMA or through the Chambers of Commerce, but what of the private citizen? What of the private citizen who has to conduct a transaction with Customs and Excise, or generally any of the public offices in Trinidad and Tobago, and Government, or the public service puts up a bureaucratic wall? That wall, Mr President, becomes almost impenetrable. That private citizen—that ordinary man on the street—has very little recourse once that bureaucratic wall goes up."

He then gave two examples including one about a lady who was asked to pay $145,000 in taxes to clear a $15,000 car she was bringing in as a returning national.

He said the inefficiencies plague "all our institutions." Bharath said: "Unfortunately, what has happened is throughout our system, whether it is Customs and Excise, whether it is the Water & Sewerage Authority (WASA), whether it is T&TEC, whether it is collection of garbage, it is endemic in the system that if you want something, you must pay for it, and until we change the system—and I am not blaming the people because until we change the system, Mr President—we will allow that type of behaviour to run rampant. That is why this Government has embarked on transformative change because if we attempted to do it incrementally, it will always revert to where it was before. You will see that throughout my contribution, Mr President, with regard to tackling this thorny issue of ease of doing business, that is what we are attempting to do, to create transformative change."

He said that when he spoke to the private sector upon assumption of office as Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, members of the private sector said to him: “Minister we do not want further incentives, you know. We do not want incentives. There are enough incentives on our books in Trinidad and Tobago to allow us to do business. The problem is, we need to cut through the red tape. We need to remove the bureaucracy to allow us to be able to trade unhindered.”

The minister said that "Customs and Excise collects on average $2.5 billion worth of tax on an annual basis—$2.5 billion worth of tax. In fact, that is close to 5 per cent of the total revenue generated by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago on an annual basis. But, customs must also see themselves not just as tax collectors, they must see themselves—if we are to embrace what is happening in the real world, they must see themselves also as trade facilitators."


- Photo by zlady

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