The 12 member Confederation of Regional Business Chambers (CRBC) is asking government to extend its deadline for the return of cotton based $100 bills, by at least five to seven working days in January.
And the group is concerned about the increased security risks to small businesses, as a result of the compressed time given for the currency changeover.
Coordinator for the Confederation, Jaishima Leladharsingh, says many customers of these businesses may not have had time to change their currency before the 31 December deadline, and would be shopping with the old notes.
The confederation itself comprises 12 business chambers, and has a membership of between 1,500 to 1,700 businesses.
Jaishima Leladharsingh says many of those businesses may have to lose out on end of year sales if they are to meet the deadline.
“State enterprises such as National Flour Mills and NAMDEVCO already have indicated their intention to stop accepting the old bills,” he points out. “If the Confederation members take a similar stance, it would affect their sales. They won’t realise the type revenue they want and businesses and the economy will be in further decline.”
He says Central Bank doesn't have the capacity to handle long lines of people, and commercial banks may need the extra time.
“Allow those with business accounts an extra five to seven days so they could easily dispense with their earnings, be it a combination of the new polymer and the old cash,” he suggests, “but have that cut off point in early January, and that’s it—for commercial and business customers only.”
The CRBC coordinator also is concerned that in an effort to get the new notes, those business people could become targets of criminals, should they need to travel great distances—from Sangre Grande, or Central or South Trinidad—to get to Central Bank, where the cash transfer can be made.
The Confederation currently is not involved in any of the lawsuits being brought by the Hindu and Muslim communities. However, it is asking the authorities to give special consideration to Muslims who don’t wish to commingle the funds they set aside for Zakat (donations to the poor) and for Hajj (holy pilgrimage to Mecca).
The finance minister has indicated that the Central Bank has made provisions for Muslims, but the CRBC coordinator says from a safety perspective, long lines at the Central Bank Tower to make the money exchanges could be a possible, dangerous outcome.
Story by JESSIE-MAY VENTOUR