Government has “largely sidelined” small businesses and entrepreneurs struggling to survive during the current lockdown, the Democratic Labour Party shadow spokesman on business Ryan Walters has charged.
In a statement on Monday, Walters, who insisted the small business community deserve “some level of respect”, pointed to the administration’s handling of the concerns of public service vehicle owners and operators as well as the treatment of small shops.
He said: “It is not at all surprising that the plea for assistance from the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) has fallen on deaf ears. The AOPT has been recently calling on Government to give assistance to its members during the pause similar to what has been provided to other small businesses.”
Walters suggested this mistreatment dated as far back as last year’s first lockdown when former Small Business Minister Dwight Sutherland was in office. The Government did provide the Trust Loan Fund but “the qualifying bar was set way too high, so it never reached the pockets of the small business owner” and the minister had failed to defend the interests of small entrepreneurs, he claimed.
He added: “During that first lockdown the then Minister Dwight Sutherland threatened to close micro and small businesses who didn’t follow strict protocols. Why not help these businesses? Why not donate hand sanitiser stations, alcohol, etc for these small businesses to help them out? Why not extend a helping hand rather than trying to close them? Minister Sutherland also said he was cracking down on small shops that do not label their goods or give a bill. Can you imagine a village shop in the worse and most uncertain times having to invest in cash registers, label machines, etc in fear of being shut down? This is an establishment that is catering to $20 and $50 transactions at a time, how was that fair then?”
The DLP spokesman claims that little has improved during the second lockdown which began on Feb 3.
Walters said: “During this time small business are offered small sums of $250 or $750 a week depending on their business. Just imagine, with such small payments the government saw it fit to divide the support into multiple payments, meanwhile $300 million is being offered in other quarters in much huger drawdowns. The pause has been extended until month-end and not a concrete word from the minister on if the support will be extended to this vulnerable group.
“The right thing to do is to follow your due diligence process and expedite payments to those you can confirm. The other thing to do is to reach out to those who could not be verified and encourage them to register their business. This is the time for love and understanding…,” he said. (BT/PR)