Derek Chin

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Chairman of the Daichin Group of Companies, Derek Chin, is concerned about the weakening relationship between the government and the private sector over operating in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on Aakash Vani 106.5 FM Morning Panchayat, Chin said businesses need support from the government as they struggle to survive lockdowns and public health measures. He said it seems to be a “them against us” climate.

Chin said the government has not been listening to the business community when they should be working as partners to get the country back on track.

He said not much has been done, and the lockdown measures are going on too long, and almost six months after a spike, the COVID-19 infection rate should be lower.

“I think that the future does not bode too well given the current policies, the continuation of suppressive types of policies that really act as disincentives. You only have to look around at the world in developed countries and see how they are dealing with it and how they have supported their businesses, supported their private sector in what has been a serious event,” Chin said.

He believes the government should encourage new investments, not only in Trinidad but in neighbouring countries. With Guyana building its oil industry, he said the country is heading towards creating a new economy.

T&T businessmen and women are already looking at investments in Guyana.

“When I go over there, which was last week, I met a whole bunch of Trinidadian investors. I thought I was the only one gaining the flag, but Trinidadians are sharp businessmen; they are not stupid people. They see opportunity, so you go where your capital can work for you. In the same way, I am appealing to the government to get involved.”

He said Guyana does not have the population, talent, resources or experience like T&T and its government already indicated that the country is open to foreign investments.

“Next door to us; one hour away, there is a possibility that we can get businesses and start to earn some money and bring it back to Trinidad. The (Guyanese) government is open for business. They want to see it happen. They love Trinidad. They love the energy that Trinidadians have. They want to inherit some of that.”

Chin said the COVID-19 period was unprecedented and probably one of the worst business periods in history. Whether the local business sector can survive is a big question.

“Everybody in the world now has taken a big hit, and the question is how we claw ourselves back. The pandemic has been good in one way and bad in another.”

Chin said the pandemic was depressing, but it made T&T sensitised to efficiency compared to the pre-COVID-19 era. Many new businesses opened, such as online delivery services.

During the closure of restaurants, Rizzoni’s Ristorante Italiano adjusted its model to provide frozen foods to supermarkets. He said manufacturers also diversified their processes to operate safely during the pandemic. However, businesses had to cut costs, staff and learned about the struggles of their people.

However, he found that the government was not doing enough to engender hope in citizens to believe that the country would eventually come out of this depression and get back to the good old days.

He was critical about the shutdowns and the State of Emergency. He said these led to business owners mulling on how to pick up the pieces.

“I was there yesterday, hoping that we could get to a reopening soon and that we could get our staff back employed, get the restaurants back with the in-house dining and try to work to get things normalised.”