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Chairman of the Tobago Division of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce Diane Hadad, left, talks with Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack during a meeting between the THA, Cabinet and representatives from the business and tourism sectors at the Magdalena Grand in Lowlands earlier this year. The meeting discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the Tobago economy and initiative to help citizens through it.

Chairman of the Tobago chapter of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Diane Hadad, is making an urgent call for the banks to meet with businesses so that a comprehensive policy for the repayment of loans and overdraft facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic can be negotiated.

She said the absence of a comprehensive policy is frustrating business owners, as the banks are applying “individual silent pressure” on businesses.

She said business owners are facing financial pressures and in many instances, cannot meet their financial obligations.

“One of the things I want to ask… is that the financial sector comes to meet the business community, both in Trinidad and Tobago, to address the matter of repayment,” Hadad said during an interview at her Canaan offices.

“We need to start to put out there what we are dealing with, it’s called silent individual pressure. So some of the questions from the banks are, ‘Could you bring down your overdraft facility?’ They are asking these questions to … hardware and book store owners, who have had no income for a while. I know one person asked if the bank wanted the person to bring the bale of wood and rest it on the counter.”

Hadad said the banking and financial sectors have reported “massive profits for a long while” and as stakeholders in the economy, they must realise they cannot exist without the business community.

In a March 19 statement, the Bankers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago said a Banking and Insurance Financial Services Sub-Committee of Cabinet met with Government and Central officials and business organisations to discuss the ongoing situation.

Among the measures implemented is the reduction of their prime lending rate by at least 1.5 per cent, deferred interest and/or principal payments for at least one month for some clients and the temporary reduction of the rates on credit card balances.

The release said: “Banks will leverage (customers’) strengths to provide creative and flexible solutions. The focus at this time is to assist customers, both business and individual, in meeting their critical, immediate and short-term needs, to weather this global pandemic.” — Camille Mceachnie