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FLASHBACK: This woman looks at Caro’s fashion studio’s empty store on Fredrick Street, Port-of-Spain, in May.

While many in the food sector are eager and preparing to open come July 19, not every business that closed in May will be in a position to reopen its doors.

Penal Debe Chamber of Commerce president Rampersad Sieuraj said that businesses have been battered financially and fears that many may close permanently.

This is why he wants the government to consider giving those facing permanent closure a helping hand.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Sieuraj said July 19 will be a “most welcomed day” because businesses have been clamouring to reopen for the longest while now.

“However, I can tell you for a fact that there are quite a number of businesses in the Penal-Debe area about 25 to 30 per cent of the businesses that have literally closed down, probably never to reopen. Those that have had to pay rental and other expenditures, other overhead costs have not been able to meet them, especially businesses where the landlords have not been lenient with them. They, I expect will not be able to reopen.”

Sieuraj said many proprietors, especially those in the informal setting, could not access the government’s loan facility because they lack the required documents.

“The ones in the informal sector will find it very difficult to access those grants simply because of the conditions that have been laid down, for example, the banks will need three years financial statements, a registration for BIR, NIB.”

He suggested that government find some mechanism to make it more accessible to them.

“The government could possibly make it easier by asking for the basic requirements, that means to say that the businesses will have to go and register at the Board of Inland Revenue, the Board of Inland Revenue can then wave its requirement of five and six years tax returns. The Board of Inland Revenue could say file your taxes for this year and onwards. The Ministry of Finance could probably make regulations to that effect. The NIB could say okay maybe you have been in business for ten years but this is the requirement going forward, so you bring them into the formal sector and therefore you then be able to recover benefits and taxes in due course.”

Education on vaccination needed

Meanwhile, Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce president Mukesh Ramsingh expects 75 to 80 per cent of the food sector to reopen.

“I know businesses that have to pay rent are under a little constraint but I think most businesses would be able to open.” Asked when he hoped to see the restrictions lifted on the other business sectors, Ramsingh said the government is trying its best to open up based on the vaccination process.

“If the vaccination is ramped up in the next month or so as the Prime Minister rightfully said, they will push to open more and more of the business sector.”

Noting that the chamber’s building will be used as a vaccination site from Friday, he said they are supporting the drive to vaccinate the workforce.

Ramsingh said while legally no one could be forced to take the vaccine he is suggesting that everyone gets vaccinated. He said that’s the direction the world is heading.

“I myself is fully vaccinated and I have no issues and my family is vaccinated. We have no issues. Even based on travelling, it is going to be that you have to be vaccinated now.”

However, he said no one could be forced to take the vaccine.

“There is a massive campaign that is going to be launched to educate and advise people about the vaccine and to convince people to be vaccinated. I hope that those on the fence to be vaccinated gets on board because that’s the only way out of this right now,” he added.

Meanwhile, Argentine Ambassador to Trinidad Marcelo Suárez Salvia also commented on the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in this country on Twitter.

He posted, “I couldn’t have imagined that I would be so happy for TT’s Food Sector people after today’s [email protected] positive announcements. I’ve been observing your hardship & I wish you all a swift and smooth return to business.”

The Ambassador also congratulated Trinidad and Tobago on the progress the country has made so far.

The government is expecting an additional shipment of 800,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines from China this week.