Wednesday 2 September, Honiara – One of the biggest challenge businesses face during this COVID-19 global pandemic is ‘uncertainty’, says the Board Chairman of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), Mr Jay Bartlett.
“Uncertainty is one area that is quite challenging as we do not know how long this pandemic will be around for, we do not know what will happen with a vaccine and we do not know what will happen to our economy,” Mr Bartlett said during the special one-hour session before the Government’s Umi Tugeda against COVID-19 talk-back show on SIBC, on Sunday 30 August.
Solomon Islands remains among only a hand-full of countries around the world that is yet to register a positive case of COVID-19, however, measures imposed in the efforts to keep the country COVID-19 free, plus global impacts, has had a significant economic impact domestically.
What’s more challenging is the fact that businesses do not know what to anticipate in the coming weeks and months to determine whether they will be able to stay afloat and more importantly keep their workers employed.
“To cut down on staff is very difficult to do when they have been with you for many years and they depend on their employment to support their families and meet responsibilities like paying for their children’s school fees,” Mr Bartlett said.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Chamber, businesses are struggling to maintain their customers and their cash flow while close to forty percent reported that more than 500 workers are adversely impacted.
Mr Bartlett emphasized that a collaborative approach is needed and sees the SIG-Private Sector Advisory Group as the platform to promote this.
“The engagements under the MOU are important because private businesses contribute to paying taxes which enables Government to provide essential services to our people, as such, it is also important that the discussions look at ways in which our economy can recover.
“We all depend on the economy even for our health. For Government to be able to respond adequately to health challenges, it needs the economy to be healthy as well.
“That is why at the Chamber we believe all stakeholders including Government will need to work together to find a good path to follow where we can find the right balance between managing the health challenges while also addressing the economic hits,” Mr Bartlett said.
SICCI reiterates its stand on the large pipeline of infrastructure projects as being a key factor in the country’s economic recovery.
There are currently more than SBD7 billion worth of infrastructure projects that are earmarked for Solomon Islands which SICCI sees as vital to driving the recovery of the country’s economy.
“The Stimulus Package will help us for the short to medium term at this time when we are experiencing a drop in our economy, but it cannot sustain us.
“What we need is more stimulus into the economy and one of the conversations the Chamber is having with Government is the need for this infrastructure spend to happen. It will create jobs and get money flowing into the economy,” Mr Bartlett said.
SICCI Vice Chairman, Mr Ricky Fuoo shared similar sentiments maintaining that if these infrastructure projects are fast tracked, people will be able to get money into their pockets through employment opportunities that will have positive ripple effects.
“As we understand it, Government is focusing on agriculture which is good as this sector has the potential for economic sustainability going into the near future while infrastructure developments can help how well the economy recovers,” Mr Fuoo said.
“But how do we get these projects of the ground without compromising the health of our citizens? Obviously, this is something that needs a lot of careful thought to plan. We need to take calculated risks, put systems in place to protect our citizens and we need to trust those systems.”
“With that being said we would like to acknowledge and thank the Ministry of Health and all our frontline workers for their continued efforts to keep Solomon Islands COVID -19 free,” Mr Fuoo ends.