WHILE accepting the Prime Minister's announcement that non-essential services will be stopped from midnight on Sunday until April 15 to combat the covid19 pandemic, some business organisations in TT on Friday are asking the Government for clarity on the difference between essential and non-essential services.
Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce president Sieuraj Rampersad said he has been swamped with phone calls from chamber members about what is a non-essential service. Rampersad, who runs an accounting firm, said he closed his business but has been unable to find out if it is a non-essential service. He shared a view expressed by TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria that there was not enough consultation between Government and the private sector on the measures.
Greater San Fernando Business Association president Kiran Singh said TT was already dealing with falling oil and gas prices when covid19 occurred.
"We have a double jeopardy."
In the absence of a list of defined services and activities, Singh was pleased that National Security Minister Stuart Young identified groceries, pharmacies, hardwares and gas stations among the businesses that will remain open.
Singh said San Fernando businesses have been co-operating with Government's efforts to combat covid19 but he expressed concern about the economic impact of the pandemic on small and medium enterprises where workers live "from paycheck to paycheck."
Singh remained confident that TT was a resilient country and will survive the pandemic.
Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce president Vishnu Charran agreed with the need for essential services to operate at this time.
"We are saving lives."
He also said it is possible for other services to operate remotely using various technology platforms if they could. But he expressed concern that some small businesses could fold as a result of these measures.
On the issue of debt relief to affected businesses, Charran, Singh and Rampersad said there were measures which Government could consider to help businesses navigate through these challenging times. They cited deferral of tax payments as an example.