Daily Brief - Thursday 14th May, 2020

NEWS

Chamber head begs gov't: Show empathy to small businesses

CEO of the TT Chamber of Commerce Gabriel Faria says government should show more empathy to small businesses and ramp up the delivery of salary relief grants. At the Health Ministry’s virtual press conference on Tuesday morning, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the micro-, small-, and medium-enterprise sector would receive $300 million through a loan programme, under which the government would subsidise the interest and provide partial collateral. Read more here

10 seabathers charged for COVID regulation breach

Ten people were arrested and charged yesterday for breaching the Public Health Ordinance Regulations when they were found bathing in the waters off Bayside Towers in Cocorite. The penalty for such an offence is a $50,000 fine and six months in prison. The people, who were taken to the Four Roads Police Station, were charged in accordance with Section 3 (1) (d) of the Public Health (2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov)(No 14) Regulations 2020 which states, that during the specified period, a person shall not, without reasonable justification, “be found at or in any beach, river, stream, pond, spring, or similar body of water, unless the presence of that person is essential for the carrying out or provision of a service specified.”The arrest of the group followed a similar incident on April 19 when 27 persons were detained by police, headed by Commissioner Griffith, bathing in the waters off Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain. Read more here

 

POLITICS

Protesters at PM's house: Open whole economy now

Former Arima mayor Ghassan Youssef on Wednesday called on the Government to allow all businesses to reopen since there have been no new covid19 cases in the past three weeks. Youssef was part of a five-member protest group outside the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on Wednesday. Also there were marijuana activist Nazma Muller and naturopathic practitioner Phillip Franco. Franco began the protest on Monday as a one-man call for the reopening of the economy. It will continue until Friday. Read more here

Rohan:Licensing officer decides vehicles’ tint legality by race

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says the proposed laws in the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, 2019, will ensure the tint on vehicles is properly handled and not via Licensing officer’s whim and fancy. He said a transport officer once told him he determined if a tint was too dark or was appropriate according to whether the vehicle’s driver was Indo-Trinidadian and Afro-Trinidadian. Sinanan said he was shocked and immediately called top Transport brass, ordering drafting of a new law. “I said, this can’t continue,” Sinanan said during debate on the bill at yesterday’s Senate sitting. Read more here

 

BUSINESS

Don't be alarmed by market volatility

Sitting in his office on the tenth floor of the Unit Trust Corporation’s (UTC) head office on Independence Square, executive director Nigel Edwards recalled a conversation he had while working at an investment bank in London in the 1990s. “I was talking to one of the technical analysts,” he told Business Day. “These guys eat, sleep and breathe charts. It was during a liquidity crisis in the mid-1990s and I asked him if he was concerned about the returns he was seeing and if he’d recommend getting out of the market.” The man, Edwards remembered, responded by pulling up a chart of market data spanning decades. It was pretty much just a straight line – an upward trajectory. The man then pulled up a chart spanning 20 years, then another over five years. The result was fundamentally the same. The line denoting market performance kept going up. Sure, there were slight deviations and dips signifying temporary dips and stock market crashes, but overall, it just went up. Read more here

Witco records improved performance, worries about COVID-19

The West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd (Witco) has recorded a profit after tax of $105 million for the three months ended 31 March, 2020. This represents a $4.9 million or 4.9 per cent increase over the same period in 2019.WIitco’s Profit before Taxation of $150.9 million also represented an increase of $5.8 million or 3.97 per cent over the corresponding period in 2019.In the release of the company’s financial statements, Witco chairman Anthony E Phillip said the impact of COVID-19 on the business would not be brief. Phillip explained: “The Company remains cognisant of the fact that this unprecedented period would have lasting effects on our operations and distribution. However, we remain confident in our resilience to weather this storm.” As a result of the global pandemic, Phillip said Witco implemented and continued to engage several initiatives to safeguard the health and safety of its employees and key stakeholders. Read more here

CAL secures US$65 million loan

The Government has agreed to guarantee a US$65 million ($442 million) loan to majority State-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL). Finance Minister Colm Imbert made the announcement at the virtual press conference hosted by Ministry of Communications on Tuesday. Read more here

 

REGIONAL

SLB chop - $81b COVID revenue hole triggers Budget cuts

The Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) is one of the major casualties of the new-look Budget this fiscal year as the Government has proposed to cut the nearly $3 billion ($2.978 billion) it was allocated to provide loans for students attending tertiary institutions. Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in tabling the First Supplementary Estimates for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating economic impact on the world economy. He said that despite the cut in the allocation to the SLB, the entity will still be in a position to fulfil its mandate this fiscal year. “The Students’ Loan Bureau has $8 billion in investments that can be utilised to provide student loans for all applicants,” he said, adding that grants from central government to the SLB will resume in 2021-22. Read more here

‘He’s compromised’

In dubbing Bruce Golding’s position on Guyana’s Elections as “wholly partisan and biased,” Executive Member of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), Joseph Harmon, said the former Jamaican prime minister, in his capacity as Head of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Observer Electoral Mission to Guyana, fell short in acknowledging the irregularities that have been unearthed since the commencement of the national recount of the votes cast at the March 2 General and Regional Elections. In drawing a comparison between figures declared by the Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, and the Statements of Recount published to date by the Elections Commission, Golding in a statement on Wednesday, alleged that the elections were compromised during the tabulation of the Region Four Statements of Poll. Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

Covid antibody test a 'positive development'

A test to find out whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past has been approved by health officials in England. Public Health England said the antibody test, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, was a "very positive development". The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity. Until now, officials have said such tests are not reliable enough. The government previously spent a reported £16m buying antibody tests which later proved to be ineffective. Sources told the BBC the Roche test was the first one to offer serious potential. Antibodies are made by our immune system as it learns to fight an infection. Finding antibodies that attack the coronavirus show that person has been infected in the past, but they do not prove they are protected against it in the future. Experts at the government's Porton Down facility evaluated the Roche test last week, Public Health England said. They found that if someone had been infected, it gave the correct result 100% of the time. Read more here

Coronavirus may 'never go away,' says WHO official

The coronavirus spreading across the globe might never be eliminated, a leading World Health Organization official has said. During a media briefing in Geneva, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, warned Wednesday that the disease may join the mix of viruses that kill people around the world every year, "This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. HIV hasn't gone away," Ryan said. "I'm not comparing the two diseases but I think it is important that we're realistic. I don't think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear." More than 4.3 million cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's latest tally. Read more here

14th May 2020

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