The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has approved $8 million in continued business relief loans and grants to assist the island’s entrepreneurs during the covid19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced further restrictions to address the spike in covid19 cases.
The Government, among other measures, has banned public gatherings for entertainment and concerts and also reimplemented a 50 per cent staff rotation system within the public service. Beaches remain closed while in-house dining at restaurants and cinemas are prohibited.
Addressing the post executive council media briefing at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough, Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack said the THA has taken note of the new covid19 restrictions and its implications for entrepreneurs.
He said the council has decided to offer additional support to entrepreneurs.
“We passed, today, the executive council, a note brought before us by the Secretary of Enterprise Development (Marslyn Melville Jack) extending the covid19 pandemic business relief loans and grants and we approved approximately $8 million in continued support to eligible Tobago entrepreneurs in order to support them during this challenging period ,and to facilitate a speedy recovery of their business operations,” Jack said.
Of that sum, Jack said some $1.6 million was released to treat with the tourism sector while the remainder will go to the wider Tobago private sector.
On Tuesday, $135,346.38 in covid19 relief grants were distributed to five business owners at a small ceremony at the Business Development Unit, Division of Community Development, Enterpride Development and Labour.
Melville-Jack urged the recipients to be more innovative and creative in these unprecedented times. A number of suggestions to increase visibility and productivity were also given to the business owners by the secretary, including the integration of technology into their respective businesses.
Jack also said a note will be brought before the executive council next week to consider phase two of the business support policy.
He said this process will inform his discussions with Finance Minister Colm Imbert ahead of the mid-year review, which is expected to be presented in May.
Jack, who is also Deputy Chief Secretary, encouraged entrepreneurs and stakeholders in the tourism sector to work with the THA.
“The dialogue will continue as we continue to devise cogent and practical measures to assist businesses during this time and to see how quickly we can restore the Tobago economy and the national economy on a path to positive growth.”
Recalling the International Monetary Fund had predicted that the national economy will grow by approximately two per cent, Jack said: “We, in Tobago, once we have completed our GDP exercise, we will also announce the data and meet with our various stakeholders as we review the various sectors that continue to be impacted.”
He said the THA wants to ensure the island gets the best possible chance at economic recovery.