Legislation required to protect SMEs in Trinidad and Tobago

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Dear Sir

As the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector faces a nightmare never seen before due to the prevailing crisis, the government must move swiftly to bring legislation to our parliament. This is required not only to save but prevent the destruction of hundreds of small businesses together with the thousands of jobs they provide.

If this government is truly serious about the survival of SMEs, it must focus on giving legal protection to small businesses from the difficulties they face with loan repayments and rental payments caused by this economic downturn.

At present, hundreds of businesses face permanent closure as the government’s tactic of moral suasion to financial institutions and landlords as well as the other “economic cushions” to protect businesses during this COVID-19 crisis have failed.

It is troubling that six weeks after the prime minister promised that financial institutions would assist firms during this crisis, many business owners and chambers are publicly complaining that banks, as well as insurance companies, have offered no significant waivers; while some landlords are still seeking rental payments despite the inability to operate.

The only solid solution to this dire situation is the passage of legislation that will provide a legal moratorium on loans for small businesses. This will allow their capital to be protected and to facilitate a successful restart to operations when the lockdown is over.

Further, the government must consider legislation that will protect businesses/renters by calling on landlords to offer waivers and preventing them from seizing or levying on the property due to the inability to pay rent in this period of crisis.

These measures are critical as they will not only give SMEs the breathing space they need “to get back on their feet” when the lockdown is over, but it will work to protect jobs and the economic recovery of our nation.

David Lee 

Member of Parliament, Point-a-Pierre

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