Former Trade Minister Vasant Bharath has added his voice to the outcry over government’s increased import duties on cement and what it means for the local economy.
In a social media post, Bharath said “The Government, in its wisdom, has unilaterally increased import duties to 50% on the product and limited the TOTAL importation of cement to 75,000 tonnes, in a marketplace that used close to 500,000 tonnes in 2020.
“In doing so, the Government has effectively created a barrier to entry to any competition in the cement market and put another local company out of business.”
Bharath said “One is therefore left to wonder why the Government would want to PROTECT a 70% Mexican owned company, TCL, which does not have a single Trinidadian or Tobagonian on its senior management team, at the expense of destroying a local company and sending home hundreds of local employees.”
Additionally, Bharath said, “Rock Hard cement provided a check and balance on the pricing of cement on the local market by keeping TCL honest, with the consumer not having to bear the burden of the company’s traditional inefficiencies.”
“Just as a matter of interest, in my previous portfolio as Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, I had cause to summon TCL to a meeting, threatening to decrease the duties on imported cement, if TCL continued raising the price of cement on the local market.”
Bharath stated that “In one fell swoop, the Government’s action has put more local workers on the breadline, reduced competition and created a monopoly for TCL which will inevitably lead to increased prices to the consumer, dampen construction, which is the engine of growth in any economy and discouraged private investment by small and medium sized investors.”
“This is the myopic vision of a Government whose incompetence and arrogance does not allow them to understand that they are taking this country down a path of no return.”