The economic decline seems to have overshadowed the festive Christmas season, as Couva/ Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce president Ramchand Rajbal Maraj delivered a sobering analysis of the nation’s future. He said government has to work with the business community to turn the economy around and not seek to blame previous governments.
Maraj was addressing the chamber’s annual Christmas dinner at its Camden Road, Couva auditorium on Tuesday night.
In an impassioned speech in which he touched on several national issues, Maraj said businesses in central Trinidad were “fighting a battle of survival” on a daily basis, with layoffs and cutbacks becoming the norm in some cases.
“Although it is reported through a Ministry of Finance press release that the IMF has given a thumbs-up to several measures taken by TT, the last three budgets have failed to deliver anything approaching reasonable goals for the domestic economy,” he said.
“We just cannot continue this way. The time has come for the voice of the business sector to become loud and clear. We need to survive and protect our businesses. We need to try as much as possible to work together with government and have them listen to our concerns and ideas that can assist in an economic turnaround.”
He said a unification of the individual business chambers from east, central and south Trinidad was needed if government were to listen to their ideas, and revealed that such a unification was not far from becoming a reality.
Maraj said the establishment of the revenue authority was a cause of concern for the business community, with members expressing “trepidation and discomfort” about its governance and operations.
He said the various chambers would host a national conversation about the authority on December 14, after which its recommendations would be forwarded to the relevant government ministry.
And with the increase in murders and robberies, Maraj said the Ministry of National Security had to implement greater surveillance for the Christmas and Carnival seasons.
“While the government is asking the business community to invest to build our community, they must create the atmosphere of confidence and comfort with respect to safety so that local and international businesses can be attracted to bringing inward investment to our country with the purpose of facilitating growth and stability to the economy,” he said.
And with the Couva children’s hospital not far from the Chamber’s administrative offices, Maraj called on government to open it in early 2018, as this would bring a measure of relief to both children and adults.
“We do not wish to see this hospital turned into a white elephant. This would be completely unacceptable,” he said.