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Reyaz Ahamad

Reyaz Ahamad, president, T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce has said that despite the latest move to reopen more of the economy, the economy still has a “long way” to go before it fully recovers.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that bars, gyms cinemas, amusement parks and zoos will be reopened. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen with in-house dining. Beaches will also be reopened to the public.

“It is going to take some time for the economy to reach a level that we would like to see. Businesses must open because if they do not, they will not have the opportunity to make income and support employees. It is one step at a time. It is still a long road ahead to bring the country to where it was before,” Ahamad told the Sunday Guardian.

Ahamad said that the Government has had to find a balance between a phased reopening and protecting the health of the nation.

On Saturday, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said the business community needs to more for the country. Ahamad, in response to Gopee-Scoon, said via a voice note on WhatsApp, “The Chamber is heartened by the efforts made by the business community during these difficult times. I am sure that the business community will continue to step up to the plate and do as much as possible to assist in these challenging times.

“Corporate T&T is operating with reduced revenues and with new operation protocols in place.

“Our main aim is to secure employment at all levels. I can assure the Minister that corporate T&T will do their part in these trying times.”

Jai Leladharsingh, co-ordinator, Confederation of Regional Business Chambers said businesses have been “struggling” and they are happy that more of the economy is reopening.

Reacting to what Gopee-Scoon said, Leladharsingh asked what more can the business community do when they are so many factors blocking efficient business operations.

“The SME sector needs liquidity support. We need funding like what Justin Trudeau did in Canada by giving grants to businesses. Right now local banks are not even lowering their costs of lending even if the Central Bank has lowered its Repo Rate. The banks continue to make super-profits. So our businesses are paying everything at the cost of doing business pre-COVID.”

Teron Mohan, interim President Bar Owners/Operators of T&T said he was happy that bars will be allowed to reopen on Monday after being closed for three months, but he does not expect more than half to reopen, as many have gone out of business. He assured that they will employ proper health protocols and other social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of owners and customers.

Daphne Bartlett, President, San Fernando Business Association said that despite more businesses reopening, she does not expect any immediate recovery for the economy. She believes that it will take at least one year before the economy stabilises.

She also described the Trade Minister’s comments about the business community not doing enough for the country as “inaccurate.”

Bartlett said her business members are doing their best to protect jobs and take care of their communities in the middle of these challenging times.