Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce president Kiran Singh.

Amid chokehold pressure on small and medium businesses, the Greater San Fernando Chamber has listed recommendations for Government to assist the sector and further prevent spiralling hardship on the public. This, as Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee meets Monday where focus is expected to be on the 2021 Budget of $49.5 billion and projected increases—approximately $2 billion—to facilitate several ministries.

The public meeting was advertised on Parliament’s website.

Government recently stated a supplementation bill was ahead regarding the Budget.

The Standing Finance Committee’s meeting will be followed later on by the mid-year review of the Budget. Last week, health officials said regional health authorities need money, particularly for ambulance payments. Tobago officials added that money’s needed for public sector investment development, airport extension land matters and COVID relief.

With the public fighting for their livelihood, a point stated by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi last Sunday, there’s been loud calls for Government’s review to ease the pressure, including on floundering small and medium businesses.

The Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce president Kiran Singh said, “The business community hopes the Budget review will address financial distress experienced by medium/small enterprises, brutally ravaged by the COVID climate.’’

Noting the situation’s also impacted the public and economy, Singh listed problems affecting businesses and recommendations.

Suggestions included using surplus funds allocated to banks for medium and small businesses.

Singh added, “Government issued a $300 million tranche to commercial banks last year for soft loans within the SME sector. Approximately one-third was taken up by the sector however, a significant portion remains unused.”

“We’re aware Government’s balance of payments is in an unhealthy position. Small businesses have become very wary of high-interest rates, extreme due diligence and hidden charges imposed by banks. These factors would have certainly contributed to a fall in demand of financial services (loans). The surplus funds can be redirected to service VAT Refunds. We’re only asking for what’s owed to us to be paid in a timely manner. Cash flow is the lifeblood of businesses. VAT refunds will aid survivability of many small businesses.”