Covid-19: Trade ministry engaging banking sector for relief measures

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Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel. Picture: GCIS
Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel. Picture: GCIS

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel says an exemption has been issued to banks under the Competition Act to coordinate on measures which can be used to support businesses and ordinary citizens during the period of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a government media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday, Patel said the regulatory exemptions were published in the Government Gazette earlier on Monday.

“The exemptions will allow South African banks to work together to devise programmes and relief measures which can help small businesses and consumers through these financial and economic challenges,” he said.

time for all us to pull together as corporate and ordinary citizens to ensure that our people and economy come through this challenge with their lives, their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods and their property intact.
Patel

In particular, he said, the exemptions will enable banks to coordinate in respect of the payment holidays and debt relief for businesses and individual citizens subject to financial stress; limitations set on asset repossessions of business and individual citizens subject to financial stress; and the extension of credit lines to individuals and businesses subject to financial stress.

“The exemptions will allow banks to work together in ensuring continued functioning of the payments system, a critical component of the financial system. This includes sharing information and resources to ensure the continued availability of bank notes to ATMs, branches and businesses,” Patel said.

He said the Covid-19 national lockdown will put strain on our economy, including small business owners and ordinary citizens.

“With the minister of finance, we have been engaging the banking sector to work together in finding solutions and providing relief packages which will ease the burden on ordinary South African citizens, workers and business owners.”

He said it was “a time for all us to pull together as corporate and ordinary citizens to ensure that our people and economy come through this challenge with their lives, their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods and their property intact”.

These banking exemptions are a critical step in ensuring an appropriate regulatory environment to do this work, Patel said.

Retail property sector also gets a breather

Patel also published a special Gazette on Tuesday, with exemption regulations that enable shopping mall tenants who are competitors to meet and to coordinate actitivities.

"It allows them to reach agreements with shopping mall owners and to address matters such as payment holidays or rental discounts, as well as limitations on evictions," according to a statement. 

The exemption covered three categories of retailers, personal care functions, restaurants and clothing, footwear and home-textile shops



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