Richie Sookhai, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC).

SHASTRI BOODAN

Consumers can expect sharp increases in prices of most imported commodities, warns Richie Sookhai, the president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC).

In an interview with Guardian Media, Richie Sookhai observed that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt.

“The pandemic has caused an exorbitant and unreasonable increase in the cost of shipping, freight and containerization,” he explained.  “Prices of many of the commodities we tend to import also have risen because of the ongoing supply chain issues. The private sector will not be able to sustain making these payments for too long without further increasing their prices.”

He added: “Sales levels are not as encouraging as we would have hoped for, given that the pandemic also would have cut the purchasing power for many, therefore hurting the revenues of the private sector.”

The CCIC proposes that the State take measures to reduce the cost of doing business, which in turn would lower the cost of living.  Sookhai said VAT and duties should be removed on certain essential food and personal care items. 

“We would also like to propose that the state remove taxes and duties on the importation of CCTV cameras, as this would foster greater use of CCTV systems in private residences, businesses and public spaces. CCTV is a viable asset in the fight against crime. We would like to acknowledge the initiative taken by the Government to suspend customs duties on almost four thousand pharmaceutical items,” he said.

The Chaguanas Chamber also is advocating for free WiFi services across T&T. 

“This was already accomplished in several countries including the UK, Denmark, Lithuania and Singapore,” Sookhai said.  “The pandemic would have emphasised the need for access to WiFi to allow for consumer and business communication and to facilitate education.” 

“Greater access to this technology will help to boost online business opportunities in the local private sector. This will help local businessmen reach a global consumer base,” he pointed out. 

The CCIC president also stressed the importance of WiFi technology to the education sector, saying:

“There are still many households that cannot afford internet services for their children to access online schooling. Such an initiative will ease this burden and help to ensure that no child is left behind in opportunities for education.”