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Diane Hadad

Camille McEachnie

The Tobago Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) is up in arms over moves by WASA and TTEC to cut private businesses that have fallen behind in bills’ payments.

The chamber’s chairman Diane Hadad said the private sector continues to face the full brunt of the effects of COVID-19, increased insurance rates, and now disconnection by Government’s public companies.

Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, she said businesses in Tobago, as well as Trinidad, were told they had two days to pay their bills.

She said businesses had to also pay a reconnection fee of over $236 and sign an agreement to make the outstanding payment or face disconnection.

She said while the business sector understands the bills had to be paid, they could not make the payments because of a reduced income.

” It is interesting that at a time like this, this is the behavior (of the public utilities ). It is burdensome, and it is all coming back on the private sector.”

The division’s head said the situation is “troubling” because there is no corresponding move by the Government to jumpstart the economy.

” We need to look at whether the Government has strategically sat down and had a plan for moving the economy of this country out of COVID-19 situation because we do not seem to have an answer…and time keeps slipping away.”

She said Chamber members want a “holistic approach to…strategically hold the economy together and preserve jobs.”

” We need to understand that a formula needs to be put on the table from a real recovery standpoint, not a ‘greedcovery’.

She said the Government should lead by example and pay its outstanding bills to the utilities’ companies.

She also called on the Government to improve the efficiency of public utilities and reduce costs.

On the issue of increased insurance rates, Hadad said: ” Which part of the globe did some of our people come from? How could you not recognize that everyone has a part of play in not getting the big ‘greed zone’ that they are accustomed to enjoying?

She added:” All these costs are quickly causing a crumbling effect, the more people that grab for more taxes and more fees and more interest rates, the more they will cave in the system. The system is barely holding up.”

She said the more the private sector fails, the higher the unemployment rate and fewer tax payments to the Government. She said increase pressures on the private sector further depresses the economy.

In April 2020, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley appointed a 22-member to focus on economic recovery from the pandemic.

The committee laid Phase 1 of the recovery plan in July 2020. The Roadmap to Recovery Phase 2 report was handed in, in September 2020.

Guardian Media taught out to officials from TTEC and WASA for comment on Hadad’s statement on disconnection.

WASA’s manager of Corporate Communications Daniel Plenty said WASA calls customers reminding them that their bills are due, and customers can visit any customer service center to set up a plan to pay the bill.

TTEC’s General Manager Kelvin Ramsook said when customers get a second bill marked due for disconnection, they are sometimes given an option to clear it. Even if the bill is paid once a serviceman visits the area, the reconnection fee of $236 plus Vat is applicable.