Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan

Joel Julien

[email protected]

New vehicle dealers, bookstores and liquor marts all believe they are essential operations and should be allowed to reopen as soon as possible.

In a letter to Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan yesterday, Automotive Dealers’ Association of T&T (ADATT) president Ryan Latchu said they had developed a COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan (CBCP), Safe to Work Protocols and appointed a self-regulating committee to oversee their activity going forward.

Ltchue said the automotive sector should be considered essential for four reasons:

1. Transportation is essential to the motoring public who provide services to the listed ‘essential’ businesses.

2. The COVID-19 situation will increase the demand for private transportation as we limit passenger load in taxis and public transportation.

3. Failure to service vehicles on time and with the correct parts is a major HSSE concern and will void the manufacturer’s warranty to the disadvantage of the motoring public.

4. We have received and continue to receive numerous complaints from the public about maintenance services and warranty coverage.

As a result of this, the ADATT called for Sinanan’s support in recommending that new vehicle dealers be included as “essential service” providers under the Public Health Ordinance in a timely manner.

Latchu said all dealerships have committed to strict adherence to the precautions issued by the Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation and our respective manufacturers in prevention the spread of COVID-19.

The ADATT created a 23-page document outlining the proper procedures and protocols for the reopening of business.

“The ADATT membership are focused on being responsible corporate citizens while preserving the safety and security of all our stakeholders, including the general public. Combined we are seven companies representing 37 internationally recognised brands and employing an estimated 2,000 members of the working population,” the ADATT stated.

“Although, the new vehicle dealers have contributed an estimated TT$800 million in duties and taxes for 2019, we stand committed to working with the GOTT in re-engineering the approach to business resulting from the global pandemic. This collaboration is not limited to the automotive industry through redefined processes at the Licensing or Customs and Excise Divisions but aims to secure the survival and sustainability of life in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The ADATT is not alone in its quest, however, as the Book Industry of T&T also signalled it is ready to reopen now.

In an open letter to Education Minister Anthony Garcia, BIOTT representative Vivek Charran called for book stores to be listed as essential businesses so they can open on a limited schedule similar to measures currently applied to hardwares.

Schools are now expected to reopen in September and students and teachers are expected to compete the current curriculum online, but BOITT believes this may put some students at an unfair disadvantage.

“BIOTT further seeks to advise the Honourable Minister despite best-laid plans for distance learning, not all students have the capacity to go online and fulfill their education requirement,” it stated.

BIOTT said members have been inundated with calls from parents wanting to purchase schoolbooks so their children can get a head start and teachers have also been looking for further resources and literary tools for their students.

“During a time when persons and families are forced to remain at home, parents are further seeking extra-curricular activities to entertain their children. Our nation’s children are being deprived of novels, religious books, inspirational books, business books, storybooks to read,” BIOTT said.

“BIOTT can also confirm customers want colouring and activity books, writing practice books, and crayons as this is a critical time for these children to develop fine and gross motor skills.”

A major industry currently affected by current lockdown orders in the country is the food and beverage sector.

The T&T Beverage Alcohol Alliance (TTBAA) is expected to submit its guidelines for the safe re-opening of beverage trade to the Government’s Road Map to Recovery committee on Wednesday.

Wholesalers and liquor marts have called on Government to allow them to reopen by today and operate from 8 am to 4 pm, saying they may assist in alleviating congestion at supermarkets.

“Being classed as discount stores under current regulations, these businesses are essential to ensure the regular supply of various categories of products to groceries, mini-marts, parlours, etc. Communities rely on these shops for numerous items and they play an obvious role in widening consumer availability and thus preventing congestion at larger supermarkets,” the TTBAA stated.

“Given that most hold wither Spirit Grocers or Spirit Retailers licences, alcoholic products can be sold. However, focus should be on sales to commercial customers as opposed to individual consumers. Control to be exercised eliminating/minimising cold or single unit selling to the general public. Regardless of license type, absolutely no consumption or gathering on premises is to be allowed.”