As the country anticipates an imminent lifting of restrictions implemented in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Downtown Owners and Merchants’ Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud is urging all businesses to comply with whatever parameters are set out for them by Government as the country begins its economic recovery, despite any challenges they may have faced during this time.
However, he also fears what businesses may be faced with when that time arrives.
“The drive of the Government in the early stage protected our citizens and protected our country and we may have sectoral interests who feel their needs were ignored and may have business interests who feel they were asked to bear too much of the burden, but this cannot be abandoned,” Aboud told Guardian Media in a telephone interview yesterday.
“At this stage, we cannot abandon our obligation to obey the authorities with respect to the opening schedule that is planned and it is incumbent upon all businesses to set an example to the wider society.”
He anticipates the Prime Minister will set out these guidelines to the business community on Sunday. Asked if businesses under the association would be able to reopen immediately if that happens, Aboud said: “I believe a majority of the businesses are in a position to open.”
Visiting downtown yesterday, Guardian Media observed many stores complying with the order to remain closed during the Stay-at-Home measures.
The owner of Ink’t, Timothy Mar, was seen exiting Town Centre Mall on Frederick Street with items from his store. Asked if he was preparing to reopen in anticipation of an easing of restrictions, he said his operations would only take one day to get up and running so he was awaiting the announcement.
Gabriel Mahabir, owner of a bmobile outlet along Independence Square, was spotted carrying gypsum tiles into his store. He told Guardian Media he was using the time to clean and perform minor repairs on the shop. He also said he intended to add a sink for customers to practice proper hygiene.
An electronics store was spotted operating along Charlotte Street.
As store owners anticipate the reopening of their businesses, Aboud noted there are concerns by some owners about expenses which accumulated over the period they were closed.
“We are anticipating there is going to be difficulties based on the fixed cost of fixed overheads, which include rent, which include T&TEC’s reserve capacity charges, which include bank interest, which in this case might be higher than if they had been making their monthly payments of principle,” Aboud said.
This, he explained, would adversely affect marginal businesses that do not have the necessary cash flow or capital to cope with these costs. He was unable to give an exact quantity of businesses within the association which may be in the “marginal” category. However, he floated the figure of about ten to 15 per cent of his members.