Mama Ina Price selling avake and local honey at the Punanga Nui market despite heavy rain on Friday last week. Local growers have also lost business due to lack of tourism 21021904 / 21021906
As more and more people are getting vaccinated around the world, a survey shows optimism is returning to businesses in the Pacific region.
The month’s Pacific Business Monitor, a regular survey tracking the effects of Covid-19 on businesses in the Pacific region by the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) global network, indicates an increasingly optimistic trajectory in business outlook, despite a decrease in business confidence
Since tracking began in May 2020, between 84 and 92 per cent
of respondents have consistently reported negative impacts on their business
due to Covid-19. This month’s survey saw that to decrease to 79 per cent.
In line with this improving outlook, the February survey
reports the lowest percentages yet of perceived negative impacts on local
economy (decreasing from 90 per cent to 88 per cent) and reported decline in
revenue (decreasing from 86 per cent to 81 per cent).
According to Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce chief
executive officer Eve Hayden: “I guess there is a glimmer of hope with the
vaccine rollouts now underway for some countries, however, for the Cook
Islands, two-way quarantine free travel while on paper is still on target for
the first quarter, this has not yet been confirmed. And while there is no
certainty confidence will remain low.”
Cook Islands businesses are continuing to suffer on-going operational
losses, there are supply chain issues due to the reduced cargo capacity on
flights, and now there are labour shortage concerns with workers heading to NZ
for seasonal work.
While it is understandable for them to do so, Hayden says it
is going to cause issues if there is a labour shortage when the border opens.
“We can only hope these workers will return once the
seasonal work ends.”
Cook Islands is fortunate that Government had reserves and
with additional assistance from NZ, has been able to continue to support the
payment of wage subsidies, grants, subsidised interest, low cost loans for
those eligible and subsidised power.
“Without this in place, by now, there would be a mass exodus
to New Zealand,” said Hayden.
“However the increasingly negative impact on communities is
consistent with what we are seeing, and there is some real hardship being
experienced from those that fall outside of eligibility criteria for Government
According to the February Pacific Business Monitor, roughly
one third of respondents expect business to return to pre pandemic levels in
2021, with another third expecting a return by 2022.
Despite the slight upturn in outlook, Pacific businesses
remain in unchartered waters with only 68 per cent confident their business
will survive, a seven per cent drop from last month’s survey.
The top three initiatives that businesses are calling for
assistance in are financial support, reviews on financial position and
assistance diversifying their products and services.