T&T’s economy gets back to work

Although there a few hiccups, the manufacturing and construction sectors were back out in full force yesterday, after being in lockdown mode for nine weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley (Photo: Trinidad & Tobago Guardian)

On Saturday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that Phase 2 of the reopening of the economy was scheduled to take place yesterday with the resumption of the manufacturing and private sector construction.

Rowley said he chose to open up a few days earlier as the 14th day of the incubation period that was requested by the Chief Medical Officer to see whether there were any increased incubations of the virus ended yesterday.

Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) director Dale Parson told the Express that some manufacturers reported a smooth start to the reopening of business while some experience hiccups such as human resource and equipment issues. Some of these may reopen next Tuesday instead.

The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain.

He said this was expected as business owners now have to restart their plants and other equipment after being non-operational for nine weeks.

Parson, who is the CEO of Kaleidoscope, said he was grateful his company was able to open yesterday in the second phase.

He noted that his main focus is getting exports out at this time, as there has been a backlog of export orders since the onset of Covid-19 and the focus is also on generating foreign exchange for the country.

Parson outlined that all Ministry of Health protocols have been enforced in the company.

“We have installed Sinks, with soap, paper towel dispensers at every main entrance, including at entrances to plant, warehouses, offices. We have also provided a Company paid stock of Personal PPE to every staff member and Rostered Staff to reduce workplace population, 6 a.m.-1 p.m., and noon to 6 p.m. so that no more than five staff is at any one location, we also zoned the warehouses and manufacturing area.

He said revenue and production had dropped in April to a little over 40 per cent, but has been increasing, back to 60-65 per cent in May and the expectation of 75-80 per cent in June and back to 100 per cent in July.

An aerial view of Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago. (Photo: london.ac.uk)

Advance Foam CEO and chairman Travis Ali said it was a slow start, but he is happy to start back his factory located in Orange Grove Estate, Tacarigua. He pointed out that the pandemic was a huge blow to not just his company but the economy.

Ali said proper procedures are in place and the factory have also made PPE’s for the workers.

“Social distancing among the workers while working has been created. We have spread out the shifts and thermometer guns to check everyone who enters the compound temperature,” Ali said.

Construction anxious to restart

Contractors’ Association (TTCA) president Glenn Mahabirsingh said that the nation’s roads were busy once again as several transportation trucks were going to their various locations to restart that the sector that has been hit hard during the restrictions.

Mahabirsingh said approximately 17 per cent of the country’s workforce was employed in construction and the majority had to be sent home temporarily.

He said the TTCA developed a Covid protocol for all contractors to adhere to as this has become the new normal. He said he expects to see the industry gradually picking back to help boost the economy.

Also speaking on the reopening was past president of the TTCA and director of Structural & Mechanical Agencies Ltd, Mikey Joseph, who said the company will reopen next week as there was some administration work that had to be covered. He said the company expects to meet with the workers on the different guidelines that must be adhered to on the jobsite.

“These nine weeks was changeling but all our workers were still being paid and no one was sent home as it is a situation that everyone has to rally together, but we are grateful to have business back up and running.”

Repair shops back open

Having not serviced their vehicles in about two months, customers flooded the in-house service departments of car dealerships with calls to make appointments yesterday.

“It was a very busy day,” president of the Trinidad and Tobago Automotive Dealers Association Visham Babwah told the Express by telephone yesterday.

Auto repair shops, parts shops, tyre shops, laundry and dry cleaning services were allowed to reopen their doors yesterday as part of the second phase of the reopening of T&T, which began yesterday.

Babwah said only the service departments of dealerships were allowed to reopen yesterday, which means the sale of cars has not yet resumed.

“So automotive dealerships were unable to open because they (Government) did not give us their okay to open yet. This is something that I can’t understand because what higher risk would the car dealerships pose than the other businesses that have been given the greenlight to open? We don’t have any large gatherings. A lot of people schedule appointments,” he pointed out.

Babwah said because the service departments were closed for the past two months, there is now a backlog of work to be done.

“This is something I had an issue with since they ordered the lockdown because of the fact that they did not really stop the movement of people, in terms of a state of emergency, a lot of people went way over the time to service their vehicles. So it was a busy day today. We had a lot of calls, so we have a packed schedule now for the next few weeks,” he said.

Babwah said dealerships are adhering to rules set out by the Ministry of Health.

He said wash sinks, social distancing, and the wearing of face masks have been enforced at their establishments. He said some dealerships have brought out only 50 per cent of their staff and are only allowing a a few customers at a time. He said when full operations resume this will continue and customer visits will be done strictly by appointment.

Reproduced from the Trinidad Express