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DOMA President Gregory Aboud.

Joshua Seemungal

The leaders of three well-known business associations are standing firm in their belief that fresh, creative strategies need to be considered and discussed to get the country out of its current COVID-19 crisis.

According to CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Gabriel Faria, with the number of cases and deaths showing little sign of decreasing, there’s a growing sense of desperation among citizens.

He said doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is a sign of dementia.

“The one thing you learn in the private sector, is you learn that when you do an activity and the activity does not give you the desired result, you change the activity,” Faria said.

“Citizens, businesses, labour and Government need to look at this with fresh eyes and not say what we can’t do, but say what we need to do,” he added.

According to Faria, while the most effective way to tackle the current crisis is by significantly ramping up vaccination, this would not be possible in the short term.

He said it is, therefore, essential that alternative solutions are considered.

“What we have to do is think outside of the box. Is there a prescriptive solution that anyone would say, would work or wouldn’t work. The world has never faced a situation like this…but what we know is what we are doing…we have a certain outcome,” Faria said.

CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce of T&T Nirad Tewarie agreed with this sentiment, saying it was clear that the strategies in place are not producing the desired results.

He said the reality is that businesses and people are suffering, describing the cost to well-being as tremendous.

“If this were a problem faced by a business, given the threat to the very existence of the analogy of a business due to the country’s situation, we would do something different because we are not getting the results we expected when we need short-term results,” Tewarie said.

On Wednesday, the leaders of several business associations met with the Government to discuss strategies aimed at slowing down the spread of COVID-19 and reopening more businesses at an appropriate time.

However, on Thursday, the Supermarket Association of T&T issued a release saying it did not support some of the proposals.

The association opposed calls from some business associations to change the curfew time from 9 pm to 5 am to 6 pm to 6 am.

It also rejected calls from the associations to consider alternating the movement of people based on their surnames or vehicular registration numbers.

According to SATT president Rajiv Diptee, those strategies would lead to shorter shopping hours and likely more congregations.

“Those recommendations are not applicable, sensible, logical or appropriate for our environment, for our culture and landscape of retail that we have in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Downtown Owners and Merchants Association president Gregory Aboud yesterday said business associations understand the position taken by SATT.

He said they have no intention of engaging in a debate but stated definitively that something different needs to be done.

According to Aboud, supermarkets should recognise their business will also be diminished if the economy is shut for much longer.

“Perhaps they could guide us as to what they suggest, because we can’t continue to do the same thing and expect we are going to get a different result. We must change some parameters in order to get out of this debacle,” Aboud said.

“Don’t forget that unlike the supermarkets, we have zero operations taking place and, therefore, we are far more sensitive to finding an early solution to the crisis.”

Saying they hoped for ramped up vaccinations, the leaders of all the associations expressed their willingness to help the Government secure more vaccines.

“There is nothing easy about COVID-19 and this current wave of infections that we are facing. There is nothing about it that’s easy, or we expect to be easy…but, we want to try. We want to try to impose the new strategies because we want to try to find a way to assist this country to liberate itself from COVID-19,” Aboud said.