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Francois Building at Calder Hall where several businesses have foreclosed

Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce President Diane Hadad says several businesses in Tobago have gone into receivership due to the pandemic and will not be reopening when the retail sector resumes on Monday, August 16. Infact she described the economy in Tobago as “crashed.”

She said in addition, some small and medium-sized business on the island have downgraded their operations.

“If you look at Tobago’s landscape you will see that a lot of show windows are already empty which means that a lot of people already took the decision that they would not be re-opening because there is no capital or savings for them to start with. They financially cannot get up and get again in that format, but if you observe you will see a lot more coolers at the side of the road and vending going on and people trying to sell provision and fruits.”

The Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce head said she still fears for the worst as the island does not have activity generating disposable income.

“Quite a number of people have lost their jobs and there are others who haven’t lost their jobs, another sector of people who have not been able to keep on their lights monthly and pay for day to day expenses yet stay up to date financially so they are also in a backlog of debt.”

And while millions were spent by both the Tobago House of Assembly and the Central government to provide relief for the business sector during the pandemic, Hadad believed the funds did not reach the intended persons as “we do have a history of money going into the same people’s pockets the hampers going to the same people who don’t need hampers.” She said she knows people “who never lost their jobs and were given massive hampers because they belong to a particular party.”

But Hadad said the people who are still in business on the island are “barely holding on” and will need to recover before they come up with any kind of available cash to spend. She described the Tobago economy as “crashed” and in dire need of a formula to “ignite” the sector. She stressed, “to ignite not re-ignite the sector – we need to do things differently.”

Guardian Media reached out to Chief secretary Ancil Dennis for a comment on the statements made by the Tobago Chamber President on the state of the island’s economy and the allegation of misappropriated spending. He however declined to comment. Instead, he said, “I don’t respond to comments I don’t hear myself, if you point me to where the comments are made I would be happy to respond.”

In May of this year, Chief Secretary said the THA had spent $56 million in support to businesses and individuals since the start of the pandemic. The breakdown of the assistance – rental support – $6 million; food cards/vouchers, hampers – $10 million, business relief -$13 million; and devices to students for the virtual learning syllabus -$9 million. The tourism sector was given $18 million to assist hoteliers and guesthouse operators upgrade their facilities.