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N Touch
Tuesday 12 December 2017
News

Business activity rises

Already, factories which operated a three-shift system prior to the putting into effect of the curfew, have been reverting to the old method. Restrictions on travel during the curfew had required the industries to adjust their timetables to a two-shift system, with some introducing longer shifts. It had been harder still, when at the start, curfew hours had been from 9 pm to 5 pm.

The announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday evening of the immediate cancelling of the curfew had been preceded by requests from the country's Chambers of Commerce, manufacturers and the Downtown Merchants Association, which had emphasised the adverse effect it was having on business.

Of particular significance was the call by the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce for a repeal of the curfew as business was suffering.

Some of the arguments advanced by merchants and entrepreneurs, generally, had been that in the weeks before Christmas there would usually be heightened purchases of goods from stores and supermarkets, as well as greater patronising of hotels, restaurants, cinemas and bars. Instead the curfew had resulted in dwindling patronage and reduced cash register activity. In turn, there had been a domino effect — fewer jobs.

But even as these would have been crucial arguments in the leading up to the decision to lift the curfew, nonetheless of critical importance had been the negative impact that the inhibiting 11 pm to 4 am regulation had, particularly, on many energy and energy based industries. Already, contraction of Trinidad and Tobago's international markets as a result of the ongoing global economic downturn had literally played havoc with the country's short and medium term expenditure planning.

Low cost producers, such as China, Taiwan and India have been more favourably positioned to take advantage of the growing demand for cheaply produced goods. This had been heightened by the debt crisis in several European Union countries; the tightening of the United States import market because of job losses and the loss leaning positions of Caribbean Community of Nations (Caricom) Member States, Trinidad and Tobago's second largest market after that of the US.

While nothing we have stated should be construed as an implied criticism of the decision to introduce the curfew, nevertheless the curfew has had a distinct hobbling effect on production in key areas and its lifting will place many of Trinidad and Tobago's industries in a more competitive position. Indeed, the ending of the curfew will mean, not simply more time to party, as some short-sighted persons may believe, but increased foreign exchange earnings, greater Customs and Excise duties, an upward readjustment of employment opportunities, greater State and corporate revenue and more Corporation Tax as well as value added tax (VAT).

More money will be turned around within the economy and not merely for Christmas. Hopefully, there will be a continuation and even expansion of the trend within recent times of increased transactions reported in the daily trading and quotation summary of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange.

The Prime Minister in her statement to the nation on Monday, via televised and radio broadcast, when she advised of the immediate removal of the curfew on land and sea, that the sacrifice of the general public and the business community had been great was on target.

We may never know the extent of the sacrifice by the business community, but had it (the curfew) continued for appreciably longer, Christmas business, along with traditionally increased seasonal employment opportunities, would have been lost. In addition, businesses which depend on Christmas sales to provide an additional plus would not have had desired balance sheets for 2011. Job losses, through any level of reduction in the three-shift system, also would have had an undesired impact. Additionally, the restrictive curfew would have had a negative effect on the season itself.

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