Marc Persaud

T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce director, Marc Persaud

MEDIUM, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs), the country’s largest employer, are in “survival mode” right now and if the Government returned monies owed them, like Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds, this will help provide some much-needed cash flow.

This was the response given by T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce director, Marc Persaud, when asked how he thought the Government can help MSMEs.

Persaud was a speaker at a webinar hosted by the chamber last Tuesday on how MSMEs can survive beyond 2020.

He said cash flow is the immediate need of smaller businesses and they need access to liquidity right now.

The Government can offer financing directly or can guarantee loans through different sectors or the banks, he said.

Persaud said small businesses, like construction companies, are owed money by the Government in the form of VAT refunds, and if paid, they would have some stimulus to move forward.

Persaud also acknowledged that the Government is in a tough position with declining oil and gas revenues.

He said whether or not a cure for Covid-19 is found, the world is entering a recessionary period with reduced global demand, massive unemployment and the destruction of many retail-type industries.

“We’ve seen massive lay-offs globally and bankruptcies.

“That’s not going to change and digesting that is very important.

“If you’re in the food or hairdressing business, anything like that, you will be severely impacted right now and will be in survival mode.”

Webinar participant, Makesi Alexander, said the Government has released $300 million to assist small and micro enterprises which is expected to be made available to them from Monday coming through First Citizens Bank.

Businesses worth between $1 million and $120 million will be able to access the fund and will be given an interest-free two-year moratorium.

Those worth less than $1 million can access National Entrepreneurial Development Company grants to assist with salary payments and the purchase of raw materials.

Offering some direct advice to MSMEs, Persaud advised them to “manage your cash flow ruthlessly, where it comes in and where it goes.

“If you’re in a retail space you have to do that right now.

“If you’re not, you still have to because the effects will be coming as the economy deteriorates.”

He urged MSMEs to bring in products and sell them as quickly as they can.

Persaud is also on the chamber’s Nova Committee, which advocates for MSMEs and which hosted the webinar.

Moderator at the webinar was Roland Haggins of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Cave Hill School of Business and Management.

Other speakers were Dr Kevin Fleary, lecturer at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Graduate Business and Nikita Legall, managing director of UWI’s Tropical Hives Ltd.

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