Government is majoring in minors in response to retail sector business closures. The economy of Trinidad and Tobago is certainly at the worst it has been for the past two decades. This has been as a direct result of the failed measures of the Keith Rowley Government.
Given the economic circumstances, there has been a call by Chambers of Commerce to stem the bloodletting in their sector. The Minister of Trade unfortunately, in a knee jerk reaction responded to a solitary statistic produced by a particular local Business Chamber. The Minister responded to the impact of lockdown measures on the retail sector using CSO statistics.
Therefore, I will be circumscribed by these very CSO statistics to demonstrate the size of the fallout in retail trade. The Minister of Trade is reported in August to have stated the retail sector contributes “an estimated 13% or approximately TT$20.3 billion annually to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and employs in excess of 78,000 people.”
From these 78,000 retail sector workers, the question is how many may be without a job.
We can apply the figures of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association president Gregory Aboud where he estimated 10% to 15% of businesses may be permanently shut. If this conservative level of job loss holds for the nation, roughly 8,000 to 12,000 persons would be on the breadline.
Splitting the difference leaves 10,000 persons unemployed despite the retail sector reopening in August.
The Minister of Trade and Industry presented no counter statistic as to the amount of businesses expected to be closed nor the number of citizens that would be unemployed as a result. Therein lies the dereliction of duty.
These estimated 10,000 retail sector workers across the length and breadth of this country will have to continue living on a hope and a prayer but not tangible support from the government. This is because according to the government the nation is back to work and it is business as usual.
The East West Corridor is one area built around the retail sector. All along the Eastern Main Road especially from Trincity to Morvant Junction, retail drives economic activity. These communities will be hard-hit possibly greater than several others given their dependence on retail.
Instead of a government that is forthright in addressing the issues confronting the nation they deflect and obfuscate.
Basically, giving people the impression that things are not what they know it to be. In America they would call that gaslighting, in Trinidad we call that pappyshow.
Where is the salary relief for these persons who will not return to work from August 16th 2021?
The Minister of Trade has basically told those 10,000 workers in the retail sector that the PNM government does not care about them. Her words in dismissal of their plight is cut from the same cloth as that from Social Welfare Minister Donna Cox. Effectively, if they ask for any assistance, in the eyes of this PNM government then they are greedy, not needy.
Central Bank raises alarm bells
Recently, the greatest indictment on this government came from the Central Bank. In their 3rd August Financial Stability Report the Central Bank ranked with a High level of vulnerability and risk, Government’s domestic borrowing.
This high risk has been due to sovereign concentration in the financial system. This was potentially worsened in the recent finance bill where the government in July, increased its borrowing limits under the Development Loans Act. Central Bank has placed this at the highest level of risk in comparison to the other risks outlined.
Central Bank raised as an elevated risk, the Deterioration of Household balance-sheets. This means many families have used up their savings. The implication of this is that people across the country are increasingly financially broke.
When you mix:
- Businesses that cannot reopen with an estimated loss of 10,000 jobs
- Families in financial crises based on Central Bank report
- A government that dismisses criticisms as mischief with no remedy via policies and programmes
The outcome is the economic situation in Trinidad and Tobago can only be expected to worsen.
I invite the population to note, whenever the PNM is failing in public opinion the Prime Minister would turn up at the weekly press briefing to make an utterance that is unbecoming of a Head of Government. This creates a distraction on social media. Ultimately, we forget the PNM failing.
I challenge you to ignore these distractions and keep focused on the multiple blunders of this government.