Paula Gopee-Scoon

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Trade and Industry Minister Paula Goopee-Scoon has promised the joint chambers that their proposals for further relief from the government in light of the COVID-19 crisis will be discussed with members of Cabinet and a decision made on a way forward.

Goopee-Scoon is the Chair of the Cabinet sub-committee on business and manufacturing set up by the government in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAMTT), Nirad Tewarie said he spoke with Gopee-Scoon yesterday about the situation.

“We are optimistic that the government understands the need to support business to be able to support employment and I am also optimistic that they will consider other things, maybe some of the things that we have not proposed,” Tewarie said.

On Tuesday the Joint Chambers comprising of AMCHAM, the Energy Chamber of T&T, the T&T Chamber of Industry & Commerce and the T&T Manufacturers’ Association, as well as the Confederation of Industry and Commerce issued a statement calling on the government to help them save jobs in T&T by establishing a tax credit on salaries for companies that do not make any profit over the next three months.

The Joint Chambers’ statement on Tuesday listed five items they believed to be critical in the immediate term including the deferral of corporation tax and value added tax payments for the next three months.

“What would be a beneficial outcome to everybody we think would be support to businesses in some form to be able to support employment, so we are not wedded specifically to one or the other thing. We have put forward some suggestions for their consideration, if there are other things on the table and will provide liquidity support in the short term and the opportunity to recover in the medium to long term then we would be equally happy,” he said.

“The Joint Chambers are not about whose policy is better, it is about which policy is best for the widest group so we very much see our role as collaborating with the government on this,” Tewarie said.

Former finance minister Winston Dookeran said as we are in unchartered waters and the choice between ‘lives and livelihood’ could soon be a harsh reality.

“Measures currently being adopted by powerful and small countries are dubbed as ‘stimulus packages’. This is the wrong description as it implies a ‘growth element’ when it is really a ‘survival package’,” Dookeran argued.

Dookeran added as the economy enters into a ‘loop type’ cycle of shocks-between demand and supply-old policy prescriptions for recessionary times may no longer work.

“The coronavirus crisis has induced a supply shock-reducing wages and production-which in turn fuels a demand shock-fall in purchasing power. This becomes ‘loop type’ cycle of shocks, in growth models, shock absorbers mitigate the effects on growth,” he said.

“But buffers and shock absorbers are weak in the Caribbean economy. Shocks are absorbed through adjustments in labour and austerity. But that will work, depending on the magnitude of the shocks. Already, it is argued that to prevent an immediate collapse, the size of the fiscal injection must be equivalent to the fall in the GDP. This is a tall order in any circumstance but has dire complications to debt, credit, incomes and poverty levels,” he said.