Chamber of Industry and Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria said the foreign exchange issues experienced by traders from St Vincent and the Grenadines were unfortunate but this was the reality of the local economy.
He was responding to statements by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves at a high-level stakeholder consultation on the Caribbean Single Market and the Economy last Friday in Guyana. He complained that traders from his country had to "stand in the queue in the banks in Trinidad with Tom, Dick and Harry, Mary, Elizabeth and Sharon to get foreign exchange no doubt to buy among other things perfumes and cheeses.” He said the traders have a lot of TT currency in the bank but it was not used in his country and rural areas were being impoverished.
Faria, speaking during a telephone interview, said the Chamber understood the problem Gonsalves was having with accessing foreign exchange.
"And it's something that all companies in Trinidad are currently faced with. So this is not a unique situation that applies to St Vincent entities alone."
He said, based on the current local environment, the Chamber also recognised the challenges that the traders from St Vincent have.
"While at one time somebody could have just gone into a bank and purchased foreign exchange...that does not apply today. It is unfortunate but that is the current economic environment Trinidad companies have found themselves in."
He said the situation has also impacted the traders that sell goods in the Trinidad market. Faria added he could not see the situation being dealt with in the short term. He said Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said the economy is turning around "and we are assuming that that will mean that companies will have freer access to foreign exchange hopefully in the not too distant future. And we hope that this will also apply to traders who export goods to Trinidad."