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Couva Chamber president: Hard times for T&T’s business community

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Business chambers in south and central Trinidad plan to use moral suasion during a series of sessions with the Bankers’ Association of T&T (BATT) on bank fees and other concerns, Liaquat Ali, president of the Couva Chamber of Commerce told the T&T Guardian yesterday. The business groups are holding a series of workshops across the country to advance discussions on how banks can adjust high fees and other transactions

“We would like these legislators to pass legislation to empower the Governor of the Central Bank and the Financial Ombudsman so they could have more control in terms of what the banks could charge the public and the business community,” he said.

Ali said following a meeting with BATT officials to discuss the issue in May, chamber officials felt it would be “difficult to get them to budge”

“We realised there was nothing we could do to reduce the costs unless we take drastic action like a boycott,” he said.

However, they decided against being “confrontational” and opted for the workshops instead, he added.

Ali said the business community is facing difficult times and high bank charges only make the situation worse

“It is costly to operate businesses, then increases in fuel, the business levy fund, the crime situation, is also causing us to spend more. Then there is the unavailability of foreign exchange,” he said.

Those concerns were expressed by Opposition MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie when he addressed one on the series of workshops on Tuesday at the headquarters of the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking on the theme Understanding Banking, the Caroni Central MP said: “The bigger you are in business or if you are a monopoly or an oligopoly, as the banks are, the more leverage you have as any business can increase the price of things, can expand the range of fees, can reduce down to zero, if necessary, the number of no cost services.

“If you are a business, you can increase prices but in a competitive environment in a small economy it promotes oligopolistic behaviour, so all groceries in a chain collaborate with other chains, all hardwares might collaborate, manufacturers of similar products might strike up an arrangement.”

Tewarie said the solution for the country is a shift, so that citizens think differently and act creatively.

“We need a banking Sector where money fuels growth, entrepreneurship, business creation and expansion, consumer confidence and a savings/investment culture.

“We need a banking sector that can be regarded as a partner in development and as a friend in need, not one that is regarded as the enemy.”


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