While drastic measures are necessary given the alarming rate of coronavirus infections, micro, small and medium (MSME) enterprise sector is drowning in financial woes.
Responding to Guardian Media via WhatsApp Messenger, Kiran Singh president of the Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce said, "Many businesses, about 25 per cent have already closed permanently. The remaining surviving businesses are burdened by exorbitant utility rates and salaries for worker. The survival rate is going to decrease significantly given the fact that there will be no sales at the registers. Business owners' savings have been eroded significantly over the last year. Small businesses depend heavily on day to day sales for survival. Cost of living is also high. Banks have also not helped the MSME sector with any form of financial assistance."
In a press statement in reaction to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's announcement of further restrictions, including the closure of non-essential businesses, he said the nation has found itself in a precarious position.
"Against the background of increasing infection and mortality rates, it has become absolutely necessary to take drastic action. The health care system is clearly unable to deal with the trends being projected. This fact must be taken very seriously lest we witness the collapse of the entire health care system."
Noting that the economy has been contracting for some time, he said these restrictions will result in further downward pressure on the economy and severely affect the MSME sector.
He said workers have been and will continue to be laid off.
"Utility expenses and bank commitments of business owners have remained the same. The capital and savings of the MSME sector have been severely depleted insofar that we cannot sustain previous levels of employment."
He was happy with the Prime Minister's announcement that religious bodies will be given funding to assist the less fortunate.
"This in tandem with the funding being allocated by the Ministry of Finance will certainly bring relief to citizens not receiving an income in this period. We expect that the bureaucratic process will not hinder the rollout of same." Having identified many illegal points of entry being used by Venezuelan nationals, he said the Ministry of National Security must monitor them more closely. He also welcomed the initiative by the TTPS to launch the Marine Branch which will provide much-needed assistance to the Coast Guard.
"Data has shown that there is strong correlation between a decline in business activity and increased criminal activity. The Chamber appreciates the efforts of the CoP in ensuring that his officers work assiduously to maintain law and order and curb any disturbance in peace from these criminal elements."
The chamber, he added, continues to advocate for an aggressive vaccination program to mitigate against the negative effects of this pandemic.