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Trinidad businesses hit by Summit

Business and consumer spending has stalled in Port of Spain during thepast week, and now there are fears of million-dollar losses on the openingday of the Fifth Summit of the Americas tomorrow.

Sources in several business sectors have pointed to a paralysis ofactivity that has doubled with dozens of companies closing their doors as34 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 commercialbanks, 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. Scotiabankwill shut its Frederick Street, Scotiacentre and Park Street branches andRBTT bank will close 10 branches from Chaguaramas to St Augustine.

Unitholders will not be able to access Unit Trust service centres at Portof Spain and Westmoorings tomorrow.

Brokerage houses like CMMB and others that are in restricted zones willnot conduct business in the city and major insurance companies have joinedthe list of closed companies.

All Government offices will be closed throughout the duration of thesummit, which runs until Sunday.

The National Secretariat said in a newspaper advertisement that allGovernment offices in Port of Spain west of the Lady Young Rd, MorvantJunction 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 andprotective services, will remain open.

Sources in the business sector have suggested that with the Port of Portof Spain closing from 12 noon today and re-opening only on Monday,importers will incur thousands of dollars in demurrage charges for theirgoods on the port this weekend.

Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and MerchantsAssociation, said yesterday: "Downtown Port of Spain has gone very quiet inbusiness activity since last week. The general feeling among the businessoperators we have talked to is that many customers have indicated they'would prefer to stay away' than to get caught in any of the impromptudrills or 'dry runs' which have been occurring."

He said merchants observed a similar freeze in business during theCricket World Cup in Port of Spain.

Bankers' Association president Catherine Kumar said commercial banksindividually looked at the risks they faced and the logistical difficultiesof staying open during the start of the Summit, and realised they would befaced with difficult challenges.