Trinidad and Tobago should not be in this position, having closed our borders since March 2020. This is infuriating!
Many owners of bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centres, spas, barber shops, beauty salons, cinemas and theatres are in a serious financial state and about to collapse, even as the Government shuts down the island again with restrictions to basically a full lockdown until May 23, but in reality, it looks like it may be extended.
These businesses are seriously cash-strapped after implementing many cost-saving measures, including salary reductions for all staff, in an effort to keep afloat. As this lockdown continues, the business owners can not see a way out of the debt and to manage their finances to stay in business. Financially speaking, all businesses, especially in the food and beverage industry globally, have faced challenges to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic, and now many are on their last leg.
In the wake of infections reaching the highest we have seen to date, we can understand the knee-jerk reaction to a lockdown, but really, we must ask, how is this happening after 15 months of managing the pandemic by the Dr Keith Rowley-led Government?
The burden put upon citizens is at breaking levels as salaries for most of these workers have been reduced by 50 per cent, as well as their work week. Many are on the breadline where, again, most of them have been put on no-pay leave, even though these business owners have tried to keep their businesses afloat by initiatives such as kerbside take out, delivery service and pick-up orders.
They have tried their best to work with the Government and observe the pandemic rules upon rules. However, it is just not enough. They are at their wits’ end. They have tried everything so far and many have obeyed the laws and pandemic restrictions imposed since inception. However, nothing seems to work in these trying times.
Business owners and citizens are stressed out and fed up with doing what is right and getting nowhere—no solution and no plan to get out of this hole. With continued stress on businesses and salary reductions for their employees for unknown, extended periods, it is just unbearable, and bouffs from our Prime Minister blaming us is just not cutting it anymore. No matter how these businesses try to keep afloat, they just cannot see any light at the end of this tunnel.
Before this pandemic, the situation was already tough, but continued stop-start, with shut down, open up, then shut down, and reduced working hours have taken a toll, and this latest blow to lock down basically everything has again dealt a massive blow to businesses’ revenue and survival efforts.
The Government has no clue of what to do to curb the spread of this deadly virus and is running out of time as we speak. Many businesses have closed their doors for good, and many more are about to bite the dust as the Government focuses on everything other that what is in front of us. Economic downturn, rising crime, people on the breadline and failure after failure.
The Government cannot even recognise that our people are stressed out, tired, hurting and on the verge of collapse, even after they have done everything humanly possible, including making cuts, tightening their belts, minimising staffing down to performing the bare essential for operations, and still it’s just not enough.
This blatant fact is being ignored and hidden in the face of all the other challenges—the energy sector weakness (a really big one), the vaccine roll-out drive, even without securing the number of vaccines to inoculate the population, the restructuring of WASA (Water and Sewerage Authority), the foreign exchange shortage, and many more crises and mismanagement of our resources that we are forced to endure.
We are bankrupt of ideas and with funds running extremely low as foreign currency is in minuscule supply, I wonder how will we dig ourselves out of this hole. Yes, we understand there is an upsurge in Covid-19, reaching its highest figure on Thursday with 328 positive cases. This is very alarming and triggered the full lockdown, but shutting down without a proper plan to get vaccines into the country is just condemning us to failure and death.
Further, without putting in place any allocation of resources to support low-income earners and businesses, it is a recipe for disaster for our citizens and their families. A plan to source vaccines and inoculate the population is what is needed immediately. Without proper leadership, with new innovations and initiatives to combat this pandemic head-on and the will to carry them out humanely, we might as well say goodbye to our lives, say goodbye to jobs, say goodbye to freedom of movement and say goodbye to T&T.