Minister for Economic Development, Trade and Co-operatives, Oliver Joseph has said that government is committed to offering some sort of help to traffickers who suffered massive financial losses due to a recent strike on the Port-of-Spain docks in Trinidad & Tobago.
The senior government minister met with traffickers at the Public Workers Union Building (PWU) on Monday to brainstorm ways to assist them with getting back on their feet after experiencing losses due to industrial action taken at the Trinidad Port.
Minister Joseph brought the issue to the attention of the House of Representatives at a sitting of Parliament last Thursday.
“As we understand it, Mr. Speaker, there was a dispute between the Public Service Union in Trinidad that represents the workers and the Port Health Workers with the Government over a reclassification exercise and some benefits that were due to them over a number of years and therefore they escalated the action to industrial strike action”, he said.
“…In this regard they (the traffickers) were unable to offload the cargo because under the SPS rules, the Health Inspector must certify that it is of good condition. Unless that happens Customs cannot clear the goods so it remained on the ship it went down with, and after three days it came back to Grenada…”, he added.
According to Minister Joseph, most of the goods fell into the category of perishable such as Sour sop, mangoes, and plums and as a result the local traffickers “suffered heavy losses”.
He told the Lower House that government is now in a better position to offer a solution to the plight of the traffickers after holding a meeting with them.
He said that one option on the table is to tap into the small business loan portfolio within the state-controlled Grenada Development Bank (GDB).
The minister stated that government is looking at making “special provisions” in terms of “specialised credit available” to the traffickers.
Minister Joseph also urged the traffickers to form an association since it would make it easier for government to address their needs.
“…It will be ideal to have an association because , if they have an association then it’s easy to address the matter through the association where all of them would be represented, so I’m sure after this meeting we will encourage them to form an association that can lobby on their behalf and we will welcome that,” he said.
Minister Joseph disclosed that after meeting with the traffickers all they are requesting is that government help them to get back on their feet following the Trinidad incident.
This is all they need, he said, adding that traffickers are not people who are dependent on Government for their living but on their own initiatives.
“These are hard working people who do not rely on Government for assistance, they go out there, buy the produce, trade with Trinidad, buy products in Trinidad, come to Grenada and sell and that is how they make their living, totally independent of Government,'” he explained.
The NEW TODAY also spoke with some of the traffickers who are engaged in trading with Trinidad.
“It was a great loss for the traffickers, we weren’t prepared and we weren’t expecting something like that to happen but we’re here now today to find a solution – they (government) say they will provide small business loans which is good for traffickers”, said Akim Williams.
“It was a great loss we had and they told us to come to a meeting here you know, but whatever the situation may be, it will be a good help to start back again because we had a great loss. That (loan) would be very, very good for us,” added Agnes Bishop.
“We need someone to represent us, so with a thing like that we’ll have someone to stand up with us,” remarked Denise McDonald who lost $1500 worth of goods.
“I think it’s a great loss for everybody and for me I just started like about 8 weeks so it’s like a big setback, I actually went down with 100 pounds of damsel, 600 pounds of sour sop, 2000 Julie mango, I didn’t even save anything. So we’re just here to see what will come out of the meeting. If it’s a small loan or whatever help it will be very greatly appreciated,” said Conroy Francois.