Small businesses wait for a stimulus package after another round of COVID-19 look down
At non-essential businesses around Dominica- from salons to boutiques, print shops- the same sign is popping up: "Sorry we're closed." This is due to the current curfew order mandated by the authorities for the closure of nonessential businesses because of the local surge of the COVID-19 virus.
But while these businesses are instructed to keep their doors shut to the public, the implication of being home instead of earning a daily income is weighing heavily on the minds of those affected, who've heard nothing on a stimulus package for wages lost.
"I understand that the reason we're closed but at the end of the month I still have an obligation which I still have to honour to my landlord and the government isn't saying anything on how they're prepared to assist us," the owner of Vee Tech Nails stated to the Sun.
Among those on the forefront calling on the government of Dominica to provide support to the small businesses and their employees who are currently being affected financially by the current COVID-19 Pandemic is the leader of the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) Lennox Linton.
Once again stressing his party's proposal from last year for a comprehensive 300-million-dollar relief, recovery and economic stimulation plan covering all economic and social sectors, the UWP leader emphasised that parliamentarians are duty-bound to oversee the nation's COVID-19 response as a matter of urgent priority and are required by the constitution and the operation of law to pass emergency legislation for the approval of adequate public funds to meet the needs of all the people, businesses, the institutions of government, and civil society organizations.
"We also have a sacred duty to promote transparency in the execution of the national responsibilities to deal with COVID-19. Only through this transparency will we secure and maintain the public's trust in the government's response to the pandemic," Linton said.
He furthered quoted Section 4 of the Emergency Powers Act (Chapter 15:02) which states that no person is liable to any suit or action in respect of any act done under lawful direction and authority pursuant to the provisions of this Act but the President shall order that compensation shall be paid out of the public funds of the State to any person upon being satisfied that such person has suffered loss or damage by reason of the exercise of any powers conferred by section 3.
According to Linton, "We are now in the grip of another national lockdown under the Emergency Powers Act in defense against a government-led surge in Covid 19 cases. Still no adherence to the rule of law provision that entitles those who suffer loss to compensation from the funds of the state."
He further noted that as is the case throughout the global community the COVID-19 pandemic has put significant pressure on the Dominican authorities to respond to an unfolding health care crisis that will worsen pre-existing social and economic inequalities.
"We warned, that Dominica has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world and any disruptions on the scale expected in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will threaten our fragile society and weak economy and wreak havoc with our lives and livelihoods in the absence of immediate and substantial government spending," he said.
Hence, the Marigot MP is proposing that the response to COVID-19 should not be limited to simply increasing the capacity and effectiveness of public health systems and social services, but to also provide support to businesses.
"We said the response should also be about emergency public support to maintain people's immediate livelihoods - maintain employment income, delay mortgage, and rent payments, and provide for groceries, medical and other necessary expenses," he said.
Linton further stressed that key sectors of the economy, especially retail, tourism, financial services, transportation and entertainment, continue to be impacted.
"Hotels and restaurants suspended their business operations, as part of the bigger national agenda to alleviate the impact of coronavirus on health care costs and loss of life. Invariably, this suspension of business generated increased revenue losses. We advocated that Government spending on income support, business continuity, and value chain stabilization would be crucial in securing the longer-term wellbeing of the people and even their survival," the opposition leader stated.
He once again echoed the parliamentary opposition's calls for front-loaded spending to help the economic stabilization effort by putting as much money as possible into the economy as quickly as possible.