The Government has come under heavy criticism from the north Trinidad based business community for its decision to declare yesterday a public holiday.
The announcement of the public holiday was made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in a national address on Sunday at around 7.30 p.m. The holiday was declared to mark Keshorn Walcott's gold medal feat in javelin at the Olympics and his return home from the London games.
Businessmen however yesterday complained to the Express that the holiday was ill-timed and the late hour announcement left them scrambling to make alternative arrangements for the Monday morning start of the work week.
In a matter of hours, businesses saw their wage bill increase as certain companies had to pay workers triple time for yesterday's duties.
One businessman also pointed out that his daily-paid workers would have a salary cut this week.
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud said Walcott's was an "overwhelming accomplishment but we should not be so overwhelmed so as to lose our minds and participate in less than meaningful jubilation".
"No one can fail to understand that a last-minute Monday shutdown announced on a Sunday night will cause tremendous dislocation in all the productive sectors of the society including the banks, port operations, the administration of justice, factory productivity, courier flights—Fed Ex and DHL—the list is endless and the damage is hard to measure," he told the Express.
"It is even more difficult to understand when we contemplate that this rush to celebrate cannot deliver the type of meaningful national togetherness that could have been realised by a well-planned event involving all our athletes in a national pride parade," he added.
Aboud explained that while the business community was proud of the wonderful representation by the Olympic athletes, "we simply feel that a more structured and balanced approach to national affairs would have led us to a better organised tribute without the disruption caused today."
Already, T&T has three holidays in August—Emancipation Day which was celebrated on August 1, the upcoming Eid holiday on August 20 and Independence Day on August 31.
"It could have been scheduled better," said Dominic Hadeed, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA).
Hadeed, whose organisation represents some 250 businesses ranging from construction to food industries, said the announcement was a "now for now" thing.
"We are very proud of our athletes and their achievements in the Olympics and we think they are deserving of reward and celebration but we were taken aback at the short notice for the holiday.
"It was easily a case of not enough planning," he told the Express from his Blue Waters offices yesterday.
Hadeed pointed out that when Grenada's Kirani James copped a gold medal for his Olympic race, the government announced that they would have a public holiday, thereby putting businesses on notice in advance.
He said it would have been courteous and common good practice for the Government to have factored in circumstances such as business people who had meetings scheduled for yesterday in Port of Spain, people who had business to conduct in banks and people who had set up other private appointments.
He noted that two of his bread manufacturers—Kiss Baking and Linda's—had to throw away their batches of mixed flour as people did not show up for work, drivers did not turn up for delivery and places earmarked for delivery were closed.
"The challenge we faced is that the Prime Minister said holiday and no one came up to work. Manufacturers did not have the opportunity to think about offering triple time to their workers.
"The notice was too short. Some of them couldn't even access their workers at that late hour," Hadeed stated.
"This is not about the bottom line. A public holiday can have no impact on the bottom line if you have time to prepare," he added.
Hadeed even questioned the wisdom of the Government's decision to declare a holiday.
"The United States won 46 gold medals and 104 overall, you don't see them declaring a holiday. I have tremendous confidence in the people of Trinidad and Tobago and I think we can do great things. If we wanted, we can do something great everyday, do we declare a holiday for that? It's like we can't believe we're successful," he said.
He suggested that the Government could have tagged an extra day to the Independence day holiday to add to the auspiciousness of the Jubilee celebration.
While the majority of Port of Spain businesses remained closed yesterday, some still opened—restaurants and theatres at MovieTowne were opened, pharmacies had regular working hours, select groceries were opened for half-day and DVD vendors continued to ply their trade along the Brian Lara Promenade.
MovieTowne owner Derek Chin said the notice was short but in this instance, the Olympians were worthy of tribute.
Chin, who is in Santo Domingo now, said he wanted to keep the mood upbeat as the athletes had made the country proud.
Food outlets such as Pollo Tropical, Sweet Lime, Subway and KFC had branches opened as well as select restaurants on the Avenue. The country's embassies also remained open for scheduled visa business yesterday. —See Page 10