ACTIVIST Phillip Edward Alexander is calling on the Government to do more to help businesses, the middle class and the small man survive covid19 restrictions during the state of emergency.
In an interview with Newsday, he said: "We want to open a food bank at our office and I've sent a WhatsApp text to (Minister of National Security) Fitzgerald Hinds as a local MP. We wrote to the Commissioner of Police (Gary Griffith). We want to do a food bank for all the people having difficulties in this lockdown.
"The financial impact of covid19 will kill a lot more people in this country through crime, violence, starvation and suicide."
He said the country feels like a battle zone rather than a country working together against covid19 to try to solve a problem. Saying Griffith had been doing "a damn good job" of enforcing earlier restrictions, Alexander now saw the Government's SoE as a "ridiculous overreaction."
He said, "Restaurants could be doing curbside (pickup). They could be doing drive through. There are people who are out of work who should not be put of work. The State should help them."
Newsday asked his views on the eight to nine-week period of restrictions from May to July.
"I want to tell you something. For the 16 months covid has been here, business people have felt the hardest brunt. Business people got no relief. They got a deferral at the bank which ended up doubling their interest, so that made it worse, not better. They lost all their sales and had to pay double interest, because the banks are not giving ground.
"The State has the authority to order the banks, because the banks operate on a licence which has terms and conditions."
Alexander said the State could now negotiate with these banks which earn billions of dollars each year.
"Now is the time. All we are saying is stop the debt in its tracks until the economy opens back up. If you do that, then the Government could tell landlords that they cannot evict anybody because their mortgage payment is stopped."
He also said the Government could use its authority over T&TEC and WASA to help people get through this time.
"But they have done nothing but shut down the economy."
He elaborated on his call for the Government to direct the banks to act now.
"The banks could be ordered to suspend credit payments, so when the economy opens up people could start back to pay."
He said depositers get almost zero interest on their deposits for money which the banks then lend out at ridiculously high rates of interest.
"The banks enjoy a 13 per cent spread on their foreign exchange. That adds 13 per cent additional 'tax' to everything consumed in TT. That's why the cost of living is so high.
"In other countries banks have a two per cent spread. You don't see anybody buying US dollars at $6.01 and selling it back at $6.77."
He said Trinidad and Tobago cannot have such manipulation of foreign exchange prices and also claim to have a floated dollar. "All these questions have been deferred for too long and now the chickens are coming home to roost."