THE Bankers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) said the 2022 budget is critical to the recovery from the financial and socio-economic shocks of the covid19 pandemic.

In a media statement on Tuesday, it endorsed the targets of institutional building, key sectors’ enablement, ongoing social development, improvement in public service efficiency, among other things highlighted by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday.

“Moreover, attainment of the budget’s objectives in these areas is also necessary for sustainable post-pandemic growth and BATT welcomes the budget measures that are closely aligned to its advocacy thrust,” BATT said.

On the ease of doing business, it said investments in the digital economy, by expanding e-governance, can boost and improve public service efficiency and be cost effective.

BATT said, “Ongoing digital transformation of the public sector is a welcome measure given its potential to substantially improve public service efficiency and result in cost and time savings, particularly for the business community.

“BATT supports the proposed removal of all duties and taxes on computer hardware, software, and peripherals as a means of boosting productivity, enhancing competitiveness, and supporting the country’s economic recovery from the covid19 pandemic.”

Additionally, BATT said government’s digital inclusion initiatives such as TT WiFi, ICT access centres and provision of digital skill training will enable small businesses and communities to expand.

While these were good ideas, BATT said to be successful, they must have the support and implementation of the relevant legislation.

“These actions will support digital skills development and expand the capacity for small businesses, students, households, and communities to become producers in the digital economy, while more broadly building resilience and facilitating development of rural communities.

“Importantly, these initiatives must be backed by long-overdue legislation that supports an e-economy. Our expectation is for expedited legislative support, through the proclamation of the Electronic Transactions Act and the Data Protection Act, as the country keeps its foot on the digital accelerator.”

BATT said it also eagerly awaited government’s rollout and operationalisation of the revenue authority and tax revenue mobilisation efforts.

It said it was pleased with the initiative for a national statistics institute to enhance the environment for doing business.

“We feel strongly that data deficiencies in respect of availability and timeliness place effective policymaking at risk, in both the public and private sectors.

“This is especially important during a pandemic when up-to-date economic data are critical for evidence-based decisions,” BATT explained.

Support for small and medium enterprises, BATT said, was critical to boost productivity and income, create jobs and stimulate growth.

The incentives offered, such as small-business liquidity-support facility of $100 million and $30 million grant facility, will encourage eligible enterprises to seek and receive credit support directly, immediately and beyond the pandemic.

“Relaxation of criteria for SMEs to be current with payments to the Board of Inland Revenue and the National Insurance Board to access the government’s loan stimulus facility is a much-needed relief for qualifying businesses to access loan facilities necessary to help them re-establish themselves.

“The development of a national financial inclusion strategy will enable individuals and enterprises to access affordable financial products that meet their specific needs responsibly and sustainably. BATT supports the government's expansion and use of fintech solutions for financial inclusion will help to increase access to financial services for citizens who may have previously been unable to save and access credit,” it added.

BATT also welcomed the financial injection into the hospitality industry in Tobago, including hotels, restaurants and bars is still struggling and need direct support. Assistance through the Enterprise Assistance Grant, Enterprise Assistance Loan Programmes, the Tourism Accommodation Upgrade Programme and Hoteliers and Tourism Businesses will provide important support.

“Moreover, the allocation of $50 million to the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Support initiative provides targeted sectoral financial assistance to empower the industry for a post-pandemic comeback,” BATT said.