With the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in T&T, the Arima Business Association (ABA) has revealed that it is fully in support of further restrictions being implemented if necessary.
This also includes, the imposition of a State of Emergency.
In a statement this morning, ABA President Reval Chattergoon said he believed that further restrictions are imminent and that its members would continue to support the Government on any measures aimed at preserving lives even if this amounts to imposing a curfew or state of emergency.
“We hope that, with over 700 members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service currently in quarantine, the Defence Force would be called to assist if necessary.
“We also understand that any further restrictions bring financial implications to citizens and businesses alike. It is with this in mind that the ABA would like the Government’s consideration of the following measures to assist businesses and citizens”.
1. Offering cheaper moratoriums than those offered in 2020 in which interest, if not settled, was added to the loan’s principal and compounded. This resulted in increased monthly installments after the moratorium ended and hardship for borrowers seeking relief.
2. Reducing interest charges for loans, credit cards and bank overdrafts by at least fifty percent (50%). While the banking sector would initially make less than the normal hundreds of millions in profits annually, a reduction in interest charges would facilitate the survival of business from which these institutions can earn future revenue.
3. Waving the tax or penalty for accessing at least 50% of pension or annuity funds early thereby assisting individuals to unlock a substantial amount of their savings during this pandemic and not be dependent on the Government for financial assistance.
4. Suspending the disconnection of utilities and waiving penalties for late payment of same.
5. Waiving all penalties on statutory payments for at least six months.
6. Removing VAT on specific vitamins and supplements that provide immune support and or aid with boosting an individual’s immune system.
7. Offering tax credit of 100% on all purchases of renewable energy generation sources to alleviate the burden on utility companies.
8. Charging businesses at the residential utility rates given that there is little to no added value for being charged at commercial rates.
9. Offering SME grants to assist businesses with repurposing their companies to further digitize operations.
10. Implementing small business stimulus measures for at least one year instead of a period of three to four months. If and when the curve is flattened, it would take time after businesses reopen to return to its former/pre-Covid state or some level of normalcy.
The ABA noted that while most citizens adhere to the Covid-19 protocols, there are those whose nonchalance put others at risk.
“It is the irresponsibility of these individuals that will force the authorities to further restrict movement of our citizens and the longer it would take for our country to recover.”
The ABA said it salutes all healthcare and frontline workers at this very crucial time.
“Over the last week, the country has witnessed the capability of its healthcare system and the dedication of its frontline workers amidst the increasing numbers of positive Covid-19 cases and the growing number of deaths due to Covid-19. We acknowledge the diligence of our healthcare workers and frontline workers, who remain committed to serving our country.
“Our prayers go out to you and to your family. We urge our burgesses and communities to adhere to the guidelines outlined by the Ministry of Health and to stay safe,” ABA said.
The business association also proposed adjustments to the loan facility made accessible to small businesses, while expressing its gratitude to Finance Minister Colm Imbert for his announcement of the efficient process of tax refunds.
“The Minister’s acknowledgment that the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) stimulus loan (TT$300 million facility) offered in 2020 was under-subscribed came as no surprise to us given the bureaucracy involved in the requirements outlined by each financial institution.
“We note that while few were able to access the SME loan, the one-time loan disbursement was insufficient to cover costs for which the loan was intended.”
The ABA then listed the ranges of annual revenues required to access the SME loan and the loan amounts available to the businesses falling within the requisite annual revenue range, as follows:
The ABA said that given the decline in sales since the onset of the pandemic in Trinidad and Tobago, and impending closure of some businesses due to the current wave of Covid-19, the above ranges require review with consideration given to small businesses impacted by public health ordinances implemented in 2020.
“Consideration should also be given for the under-subscribed SME loan to be used as concession on interest routed through financial institutions/banks for existing business loans. These institutions would already have the information of respective businesses and therefore simplifies the process of accessing relief while maintaining their accountability of the funds,” the ABA said.