The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) is calling on the banking sector to clarify exactly how the proposed deferrals of loans payments and bank interest will operate.

In an official statement on the matter, DOMA says the banks need to be clear as to whether the charges will be applied at a later date.

DOMA also notes that commercial property owners should consider some form of rent forgiveness during the current crisis period. The business lobby also maintains there is no need to Government to get involved in this aspect of ‘sharing the burden’.

The full text of the DOMA statement, follows…

We write regarding the evolving impact Covid-19 on Trinidad and Tobago not only in relation to preventing the spread of this contagious disease but also in the context of the huge implications for the future continuity of many business operators.

Major impact is being felt by those in the hospitality business who were forced to close. This negative impact is also being experienced by the thousands of business operators outside of grocery and pharmacy retail and distribution.

The two major components of the burden being faced by businesses especially smaller enterprises are property rent and bank interest.

Bank Interest and Loan Payments.  Much has been said about the deferral of Bank Interest and Loan payments but it remains unclear as to if this deferral is simply a delay in applying the charges to a later date and, more importantly if compound interest calculations will apply to the loans and interest. We make this point publicly because, despite our gratitude to our Commercial Banking sector we think that a public commitment is required from the banks at this time. March 2020 Sales and revenue for business operators is not being deferred it is being lost totally. The business Community needs clarity on exactly what facility of ease is on offer from the banks as it relates to the calculation of the deferral of payments, the possible bunching of loan repayments and the major impact of interest rate calculations on deferred monthly charges.

Property rental.  We have received as many calls regarding the issue of property rent as inquiries about bank deferrals and interest. Many queries have come from malls outside of Port-of-Spain regarding any official position on reductions in rent given the devastation of income and revenues. We are being asked if the Government has a stated position on this issue. We see no reason why Government should be called upon to impose itself on what is a matter between tenants and landlords. The Government has its “hands-full” and should not, in our view have to be occupied by a matter such as this in which experienced business people must know their responsibility.  We believe that given the circumstances that it would be compassionate and in keeping with our duty of care to each other for us to recommend that Landlords of commercial premises occupied by trading, hospitality  and distribution clients look favourably on rent forgiveness in a percentage range that exhibits an equal sharing of the burden of this unforeseen health and economic crisis.

In both matters of deferred loan and interest and in the case of property rentals we feel that how we treat each other now, when we are in trouble will contribute substantially to how we live with each other when the trouble has passed. If we do a good job of caring for each other in this time of great uncertainty and fear we will add quality and respect for each other to our lives in Trinidad and Tobago once Covid-19 is eradicated.