Business and consumer spending has stalled in Port of Spain during the past week, and now there are fears of million-dollar losses on the opening day of the Fifth Summit of the Americas tomorrow.
Sources in several business sectors have pointed to a paralysis of activity that has doubled with dozens of companies closing their doors as 34 Heads of State arrive in the capital city for the Summit.
Thousands of employees, from Government officers to garbage collectors, are getting the day off tomorrow as companies, including major commercial banks, brokerage houses, the port, the Stock Exchange and even jewelers, close because of anticipated pains to customers because of the Summit.
Republic Bank has already decided to close all its branches tomorrow, reminding customers they can use ABMs and Telebanker facilities. Scotiabank will shut its Frederick Street, Scotiacentre and Park Street branches and RBTT bank will close 10 branches from Chaguaramas to St Augustine.
Unitholders will not be able to access Unit Trust service centres at Port of Spain and Westmoorings tomorrow.
Brokerage houses like CMMB and others that are in restricted zones will not conduct business in the city and major insurance companies have joined the list of closed companies.
All Government offices will be closed throughout the duration of the summit, which runs until Sunday.
The National Secretariat said in a newspaper advertisement that all Government offices in Port of Spain west of the Lady Young Rd, Morvant Junction and the Barataria Roundabout and north of the Beetham Highway, including Maraval and Diego Martin, will be closed for business.
All agencies providing essential services, including emergency, health and protective services, will remain open.
Sources in the business sector have suggested that with the Port of Port of Spain closing from 12 noon today and re-opening only on Monday, importers will incur thousands of dollars in demurrage charges for their goods on the port this weekend.
Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association, said yesterday: "Downtown Port of Spain has gone very quiet in business activity since last week. The general feeling among the business operators we have talked to is that many customers have indicated they 'would prefer to stay away' than to get caught in any of the impromptu drills or 'dry runs' which have been occurring."
He said merchants observed a similar freeze in business during the Cricket World Cup in Port of Spain.
Bankers' Association president Catherine Kumar said commercial banks individually looked at the risks they faced and the logistical difficulties of staying open during the start of the Summit, and realised they would be faced with difficult challenges.