Global vaccine rollout a glimmer of hope for local businesses

Monday 22 February 2021 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Economy, National

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Global vaccine rollout a glimmer of hope for local businesses
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 assistance.”

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.

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