2199125

Confirmation from MovieTowne boss Derek Chin that his operation in Chaguanas is being closed is indeed sad news, not just for the community who socialised at the venue but the workers who will be thrown on the breadline as a result.

In a statement on Sunday, Chin cited two reasons: the COVID-19 pandemic and MovieTowne’s landlord, noting this combination “made it uneconomical for us to continue.”

This closure is a wake-up call on the devastating impact the continued restrictions on some businesses is having on the economy. Cinemas were among the closures when Government introduced restrictions in March and there was always the ripple effect of workers being sent home but no one expected an actual closure this soon.

The see-sawing of restrictions has had a profound and severe impact on many families in Trinidad and in Tobago. The closure of bars and restaurants, which now operate only take away services, have led to untold hardship on these business owners, many of whom do not have the wherewithal to survive and have taken decisions to close permanently.

Closures of businesses such as MovieTowne have a spiralling effect. Surrounding businesses will also be negatively affected and the jobless numbers will continue to grow. Across the country, there are now many businesses forced to shut down because of the dual impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed by the state.

In these tough economic times, it is commendable that some business owners are showing they have a heart by assisting their tenants via reducing rent. Others though seem hell-bent on ignoring what is in front of them.

One agrees that measures needed to be put in place to curb the spread of the virus but the fact of the matter is not one health official has been able to pinpoint where the spread is coming from or why there has been the steady increase, given that the country’s borders remain closed save for the citizens who are being let in a controlled manner.

On that note, the decision to reopen Bucco Reef and Caroni Swamp swamp tours at a time when no tourists are coming here is perplexing given that in the case of Buccoo, bathing, a main attraction in that activity, is still debarred.

One would have hoped that the Minister of Finance or Prime Minister would have addressed the impact of COVID-19 on business frontally during the Budget debate. We heard the narrative of the state having paid out between $6 to $10 billion in grants in the intervening period from March to now. But do we know the real impact of COVID-19 on the business sector and real number of workers who lost their jobs?

The devastation caused by COVID-19 is immeasurable when one also considers the mental health issues and heartache caused to families by restrictions implemented. But we also cannot continue to let the virus cripple livelihoods indefinitely. A real plan for the reopening of economy thus needs to be devised and implemented soon.