Trinidad and Tobago
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Bad weather casts cloud over Xmas shopping, say businesses

Ryan Hamilton-Davis A used-car dealership flooded out in Bamboo No 3, Valsayn after torrential rain on Saturday. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS - JEFF K MAYERS
A used-car dealership flooded out in Bamboo No 3, Valsayn after torrential rain on Saturday. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS - JEFF K MAYERS

Several business chambers have come together to bring relief to areas affected by the heavy rain and flooding over the past few days, but some are worried that the flooding and rain will cast a dark cloud over the Christmas shopping season.

Supermarkets Association of TT president Rajiv Diptee told Business Day the rain and flooding, which left some areas cut off from the rest of Trinidad and caused thousands of dollars worth in damage to homes and businesses nationwide, would compound the already tight financial situation for many who are struggling with this year's skyrocketing prices.

“You have nationwide flooding taking place that is causing losses to families and communities. There would be replacement costs incurred in the repair and upkeep of their properties and premises along with the provision of loss of furniture equipment, appliances. This is going to set back families and it will have an effect in particularly affected communities,” Diptee said.

Coordinator of the Confederation of Regional Business Chambers Jai Leladharsingh said for smaller businesses, the damage to potential customers’ disposable income will have a significant effect on sales during the season.

“Our people depend on walk-in customers for revenue. If they don’t have disposable income and they are prioritising their money for what is immediately needed, what will happen to the Christmas and New Year’s sales? It will be bleak,” he said.

Diptee, who personally assisted with relief efforts, saw the damage first hand.

“People cannot get into Mayaro right now. There are areas around the country that are completely isolated. This is going to restrict the circular economy when it comes to the movement of goods and services and that is going to affect everyone.”

Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce president Richie Sookhai said while flooding in areas such as Longdenville, Montrose, the Chaguanas Main Road and Felicity, subsided quickly on Monday, businesses had already seen a reduction in business activity. He said customer turnout in the commercial hub of Chaguanas was 20-30 per cent lower than average and about 20 per cent of the workforce was affected.

“They were either marooned by the flooded roads or were affected directly by the flooding from where they resided,” he said.

Chamber and association heads called for swift action to deal with the flooding and road problems because the're not new.

“For seven years the poor conditions of the roads have been a complaint that has fallen on deaf ears. Businesses have been losing because the road networks that lead customers to the businesses are littered with potholes," said Leladharsingh. “It is causing businesses to lose money because it is easier to go on the highway and go to the mall and shop, while the local community businesses are suffering.”

He called for government officials to work together to resolve the issues people have been complaining about.

Sookhai added that at this point work cannot be done to clear the waterways because of the rain

“One way to moving forward and alleviating the issue is for the government to start by developing more frequent maintenance plans that is regulated, especially during the dry season.”

“We have to be hopeful that government is stepping in to ensure that people are not left hanging,” Diptee added. “This is where government has to step up to the plate nationwide – from Mayaro to Sangre Grande to St Augustine, Bamboo to Spring Village.”

The TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, in a release sent to the media on Monday, said the joint chambers, including the TT Chamber, Amcham, the Energy Chamber and the TT Manufacturers Association had donated $250,000 for relief for flood victims. These funds will be used to provide immediate help to the many affected families across the country, the release said.