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T&T bills to be changed

Bad timing on pressured people; revise that money changeover plan.

Appeals for this came yesterday from members of the public and business.

This, following Thursday’s notice from the Central Bank (CBTT) and the Finance Ministry on withdrawal, redemption and demonetisation of notes from $1 to $20 and $50 notes issued prior to 2020.

From July 1 , the CBTT will call in those notes to withdraw them from circulation.

From January 1, 2022 the notes cease to be legal tender for cash payment in T&T and the CBTT shall indefinitely redeem the notes for face value.

It’s the second changeover.

In 2019, cotton $100 bills were recalled for exchange to polymer. That, done within a deadline, saw very long lines outside banks, security issues and other problems for some customers. It was hinted a national security exercise to nab criminals was involved.

Following announcement of the second change—coming amid COVID restrictions on movement—and immediate outcry, Communication Minister Symon de Nobrega told Guardian Media, “We want to get the old cotton notes out of circulation and maintain only polymer notes.”

“However this isn’t the same as the $100 notes. The Central Bank will redeem these notes indefinitely. There’s absolutely no need for anyone to rush and try to change bills,” he said.

Eastern Business and Merchants Association president Ricardo Mohammed said, “We’re in challenging times under regulations to stay home, social distance, avoid congregations. Additional lockdown hasn’t reduced high case figures as evidenced by health reports. Now this exercise is required from July 1 to January 1, 2022.’’

“While persons juggle challenges of reduced transportation, trying for vaccines and keeping safe, they now have to rush to banks who have limits on numbers entering, reduced hours, intermittent closures for sanitisation and requesting online transactions.’’

“Many who may have small cash amounts will have to get bills changed. This changeover is a slap in the face to the people. It will cause chaos in the already stressed banking system and increased congregations which will negatively impact COVID numbers. I strongly suggest timing for exchange of bills be reviewed. Discussion and setting strategic plans with banks, business chambers and Finance is of paramount importance.’’

Greater San Fernando Chamber president Kiran Singh added, “The announcement has created anxiety among citizens. Recall what occurred with the $100 bill changeover. A hard and fast deadline shouldn’t have been set. It should be revised. Otherwise citizens will go out shopping and to banks to change notes.’’

“There are long lines daily outside Southern banks who lack facilities to accommodate customers waiting long in harsh weather. We don’t want to further exacerbate the current dangerous infection climate. The old notes should be taken out of circulation and a gradual exchange done.’’

A San Fernando energy operator added: “Crushing pressure on people. Some will inevitably need to go to banks to change money. Have Imbert or Central Bank said who’ll secure them in long social-distanced lines outside? Are they aware how banks are treating some already? If banks haven’t heeded Government’s loan deferral order what assurance can Government give that banks are prepared? As it’s being done under advantage of the SoE control factor, people will feel need to rush.’’

UNC MP Dave Tancoo said, “Given restrictions, the CBTT’s ultimatum approved by the Finance Minister is insensitive to plight of citizens reeling from unemployment, poverty, business collapse. Senior citizens were forced to line streets in hot sun or pouring rain to exchange $100 bills! Now under harsh COVID/SoE conditions, Government wants to repeat that punishment? They’re truly disconnected from people’s challenges. Deadlines of this exercise which create additional hardships, need to be revised to make it more humane and practical.”

The Confederation of Regional Business Chambers added: “Why is this changeover absolutely necessary now? That timeline needs revisiting,”