Letter of the day: Over to you, Minister Hylton
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton has often spoken about the importance of the auto industry in the development process. He noted in a 2012 speech that a key priority of the government is formulating suitable policies and implementing strategies that will ensure the continued growth and development of the automotive industry.
"The automotive trade is a critical component of our economy, with extensive interconnections across other sectors or industries. As such, we will continue to provide and facilitate as much as possible, constructive development and growth of the local automobile trade," he said then.
One cannot agree more with the Minister, but not much has been done since that speech to level the playing field. There appears to be a great deal of favouritism which for example allows the importation of vehicles by some without the necessary licences. How else could you explain an importer bringing in 100 vehicles last month without licences, then another 90 vehicles this month, again without the required licences? It addition, there are those who import vehicles without the necessary documentation but are not charged the prescribed fees for breaches.
This practice cannot be good and will only encourage widespread importation without proper documentation if some can break the law without penalties. Why is the customs department and the trade board sitting by and allowing this practice? Is the Minister of Industry not aware of this? The paltry sum the customs department claimed it has collected for breaches bears no comparison to what those in the industry know is happening. It is time for the authorities to act and plug the loopholes in the system.
It would be good if the commissioner of customs could tell the country what is the gross sum of all penalties and fines for all vehicles now on the wharves. It would be good too if the Ministry of Finance could tell the country if waivers have been granted to interests in the automotive sector, and the value, say over the last five years.
Minister Hylton in his 2012 speech said that said the Government is cognisant of the challenges facing auto industry players and is committed to working with them to address those issues, pointing out that one such measure is ensuring a level playing field for both new and used car dealers. Minister it is time for action. It is time to level the playing field. What now obtains in some quarters cannot be good for business and cannot be good for those who play by the rules. Professor Trevor Munroe in The Gleaner on Monday, October 12, said it well. He pointed to the need for greater transparency in doing business, noting that this means treating every investor on merit and not on the basis of "connections". We support that call.
"As a government, what we really want to achieve is a certain sense of balance and accommodation of all players in the industry. As such, we will be seeking at all times to prescribe and implement an appropriate policy mix that is fair for all players in the industry," Hylton said in 2012. Minister, this is not happening. The industry needs your urgent intervention.