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The Minster of Trade, Commerce and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon has expressed that the government is intently studying ways in which businesses in the country can restart their operations.

In a release by the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA), it noted: “The Minister highlighted that while the government was actively looking at allowing all businesses to operate soon, the priority at this time is the preservation of life of the country’s citizens.”

It continued: “The Minister also indicated that the government is focused on MSMEs during this difficult time and is in discussion with parties to offer the best possible solutions to these businesses.”

Gopee-Scoon brought greetings at the TTMA’s cyber Annual Meeting. Also speaking at the meeting was the re-elected president Franka Costelloe who noted that some good has come out of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Costelloe remarked that the overnight shift to technological solutions is a necessary and important step that has been propelled by the current circumstances.

She indicated: “We’ve all had to beat the clock, to find work-from-home solutions, as a responsible and necessary decision to keep business going. Online purchasing capabilities have been critical to keep product moving; and leveraging technology to reduce labour while maintaining productivity, is mandatory.”

Costelloe mentioned that technology is a critical lever for driving growth and export potential in the sector; but noted that more must be done to save businesses and to save jobs.

Three weeks ago, Costelloe made a list of recommendations to Government which detailed initiatives that should be quickly employed to allow reasonable levels of cash flow to pay employees who are now in lockdown and unable to work.

In the TTMA’s Annual Meeting message, she said, “We have also had to face the unprecedented reality of removing persons from our operations -while-at the same time -keeping them on payroll. No doubt-it has been the right thing to do, given our current social scenario.”

The challenge, Costelloe, posited is the sustainability of the status quo. She believes that in the new norm, a labour discussion is imminent. “We are not going to be returning to business as usual”, she cautioned.

Costelloe commended members for stepping up to the plate in recognition of the fact that the COVID-19 threat requires collective action.

Costelloe, called upon members to act responsibly in the face of the uncertainties in the market triggered by the onset of Covid-19. The Association also called upon Government to create some relief to keep businesses afloat and to sustain levels of employment.

According to Costelloe, TTMA members are facing significant reductions in trade and cash flows; and that they were now in the fourth week of reduced trade and a repressed economy.

She said: “We have had to make investments in technology -while carrying current expenses. The future can feel ominous at times.”