BUSINESS owner Gary Aboud has accused the Government of discrimination in its phased reopening of businesses.
"It is hypocritical and discriminatory the manner in which they are crippling multiple small business and self-employed (people)...(and) the vast majority are being crippled or have already been crippled."
He was commenting on the start of the second phase of the reopening of the economy this Thursday which includes the full reopening of the manufacturing and construction sectors. Aboud claimed Government has discriminated against the vast majority of companies that are the backbone of the country and thereby crippling the life blood of the national economy.
"It is absolute nonsense that only certain places are open. What's the difference between those places and other places? What makes one service essential and another non-essential? What is so essential about KFC or Bhagwansingh's?"
Aboud asked what was so safe and "covid free" about crowds of people going to Bhagwansingh or to Massy Stores.
"So there is a disproportionate imbalance in the manner in which the economy is being managed. Because covid is not discriminatory whether you go to Massy and buy a shower curtain or you go to Mode Alive (Aboud's business) and buy a shower curtain. It's an equal risk."
He also said that people lining up to buy KFC or the workers in the company would also be at risk of contracting covid19.
"Why should they be so favoured when a hairdresser cannot function?"
He questioned why a shoe or clothing company which was practising all safeguards and safety measures was not allowed to open at a time when they have no income. Aboud said the companies have received no relief from Government or from landlords in malls charging middle class people exorbitant rents.
He said for his about 100 employees will be maintaining salary levels for four months but he knew of companies that had sent home about 80 employees. One of his friends, a garment store owner, had to vacate his premises in three shopping malls.
Aboud said conversely the essential businesses were enjoying runaway sales in areas that were not their core business. He questioned why a hardware was able to sell a bath mat or a bicycle but Kenny's Sports Centre cannot be open to sell a bicycle. He also questioned how a supermarket, which was supposed to be selling food, could be selling electronics when electronics stores were not open.
He advised that Government should have a consultative, holistic approach and meet with the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Owners and Merchants Association and the San Juan Business Association to come up with a formula for small businesses. He said this was preferred to the current "dictatorial approach."
"But how we are being treated is the same way that (late Venezuelan president Hugo) Chavez treated his population when he just determined and declared national decrees. And we are being treated like fleas on a pig's back."
He stressed that his company appreciated the critical importance of keeping the covid19 curve flat and recalled that Mode Alive called for a shut down six days before the Government lockdown due to new cases in the country. But he pointed out that there have been no new cases in almost a month.
"If a business operates with safeguards should they not be entitled to reopen as well? A broad range of businesses are willing to implement safety protocols."
Asked about Government saying the phased reopening is based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Aboud claimed the CMO "could be under the gun of the political directorate".