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Wade George: Make tax breaks easier to access

Sean Douglas Ernst & Young Caribbean executive chairman Wade George.
Ernst & Young Caribbean executive chairman Wade George.

ERNST & Young (EY) Caribbean executive chairman Wade George called for an easier access to incentivising tax breaks for local businesses, addressing the post-budget analysis of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce on Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.

Tax breaks exist, he said, but were not easily accessible.

"Consolidate all incentives into a business facilitation unit," George said.

Speaking on the theme of the business environment he urged an end to red tape for existing incentives, saying, "We don't need more incentives."

George reiterated the point later during the panel discussion, when he lamented that it often takes a business months to get a simple certificate from a ministry before an application process can even be begun. He called for the establishment of a team of young people drawn from each relevant ministry to work together in a business facilitation unit, to increase access to incentives for local businesses.

Moderator Maria Daniel remarked that she thought that had been the role of ExportTT, and wondered if something had been missing.

Otherwise George also called the business sector to account. He asked if businesses should be content simply to profit by buying and selling imported items, or should strive for import substitution, export markets, foreign-exchange earnings, and job creation.

"Are we willing to take the risks to do something not only for our businesses but for the country?"

George said the US offices of his employer EY had employed expertise based at EY in Trinidad and Tobago which was cheaper than US-based staff and also provided foreign-exchange earnings for TT.

"The thinking should be, 'How can we solve the problems?' without complaining all the time."

Hadco co-CEO John Hadad said his company was always open to new ideas presented to it, speaking on the theme Growing Traditional Businesses through Vision and Diversification.

"You'd be surprised at the things that come at you."

Saying the firm was built on borrowed money, he quipped that every bank in TT owned a piece of Hadco.

Hadad traced how Hadco had begun as a local distributor in TT but then expanded to distribution overseas such as in the US. Hadco had also started making things like ice cream, he said, leveraging its distribution expertise to get its product quickly to market.

He said Hadco was involved in recycling as a business, involving materials such as batteries, cardboard and plastics. Anticipating a tyre recycling plant within four months time, he quipped, "We'll be making gym mats before we ship the (rubber) powder abroad."

Hadad said his company was also involved in fisheries, a steelpan-making co-operative and two eco-tourism sites, including the Asa Wright Nature Centre. He hailed TT's feat of being recognised globally as "a bastion of turtle conservation." Hadad said the company was considering an initial public offering.