Hew: Ministry of Commerce’s work continues despite lockdown

Minister of Commerce Joseph Hew addressed Tuesday’s COVID-19 panel, highlighting the work his ministry has undertaken during lockdown measures.

While efforts have been made to transition many services online, such as vehicle licensing renewals, he recognised that not all government services can be accessed by internet.

“We certainly have been doing business,” Hew said. “It may not have been business as usual, but we’ve continued to work as a ministry.”

He said the Ministry of Commerce is currently working to restore full services, including in-person services, for employees and customers.

He praised the Department of Vehicle and Driver’s Licensing for expanding its online services. In the past three months, he said, the DVDL has renewed 7,873 vehicle licences online. Procedures to reopen written and road tests for driver’s licensing are in the works.

Hew also touched on the phased reopening of the construction sector, which is now transitioning to begin multi-family and commercial projects.

He said 108 construction permits had been issued since the sector reopened, representing $44 million in value.

The ministry’s micro and small business grants programme has received 749 applications, he added, of which 83% have been processed.

The National Roads Authority has also taken advantage of lockdown measures and reduced traffic on the streets to tackle roadworks projects aimed at reducing congestion, Hew said.

Among the projects underway are resurfacing of Harbour Drive and Crewe Road. Resurfacing and other roadworks are also planned for North Sound Road, Elgin Avenue, Manse Road, Pease Bay, sections of Breakers, sections of West Bay Road and the Queens Highway near Blow Holes in East End. An airport connector road is also planned between Esterley Tibbetts Highway and Sparkys Drive.

Hew recognised that the government jobs programme, NiCE, will likely need to increase its capacity, given the current unemployment situation. The programme remains in the planning stages, he said, and will be relaunched, “once it is safe and manageable”.

The ministry is working to address challenges around public safety protocol and is planning to organise smaller work groups for NiCE projects to allow for social distancing.

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