THE EDITOR: Open letter to the Prime Minister and his advisers.
The company I work for has over 100 employees and is deemed essential. When this pandemic hit March last year and the initial lockdown was enforced, our medium-sized company ran out of cash by mid-May. All customers ceased to pay their debts and the Government was still taking its pound of flesh regardless of the private sector’s struggles. The company decided to borrow money to keep staff employed.
Various sectors were affected. The first sector that was decimated was the yachting, marine and sports tourism industry. The Government complained about not having forex yet saw it fit to disallow yachts from safely entering, thus killing an industry which injects US$2-3 million into the economy annually – and provides jobs. The effects of which became so stark that Massy Stores, Crews Inn, Chaguaramas, closed its doors for the first time in over 20 years.
The second sector that is on the line is the bar and restaurant industry. The decision to close all bars and restaurants still baffles me. Especially at a time when the Government is claiming it has no money to pay relief and has decided to close an entire sector which accounts for over ten per cent of our population. These restaurants and bars would have employed on average five-ten people per establishment, who would have paid their income taxes, NIS and health surcharge.
I think we are all aware of the term trickle-down economics. These families would have in turn used taxies, bought groceries, bought clothes – and the list goes on. I find it hard to swallow that legitimate restaurants are not allowed to operate in a curbside manner yet street food is allowed which is unregulated and untaxed.
It is said the biggest stakeholder in private sector companies is the Government. This is because private companies must pay 30 per cent taxes on profits, contribute to the Green Levy Fund, pay VAT without knowing when it will be returned, employ people who pay income taxes, etc. In a time of belt tightening the Government has taken the decision to close businesses that can operate in a safe manner, follow all covid19 safety protocols, while contributing to the economy.
There is no way to value life over money. However, in over a year the covid19 cases have only reached 10,000 which is 0.7 per cent of our population, yet the unemployment figure is probably around 25 per cent. This is worrying and is a major cause for concern. We are all aware of the crime situation in TT.
As lockdowns continue, criminal activity is expected to escalate, thus putting the general public in more danger than the virus itself. I would like to recommend that the Government reopens restaurants and bars to allow curbside or delivery only and possibly implement a 6 pm-5 am curfew. This will allow for minimal movement of people to prevent the spread of the covid19 virus and keep families fed instead of placing them on the breadline without offering any aid.