Businesses need better Govt support – A Word From

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Otago Chamber chief executive Dougal McGowan

Recently I have been talking to many groups and businesses about the importance of having a work continuity plan: a pre-rehearsed plan of what they will do if an event causes disruption that makes them unable to carry out their normal business operations.

Lately we have seen the coronavirus or Covid-19, start to have an impact here. Borders were closed by the Government, effectively stopping the flow of people at the time of year when we usually see the largest migration of people moving around the globe. The effects are instantaneous.

Tourist numbers were drastically hit during a time when Chinese New Year celebrations are usually busy. It did not only affect tourists; international students who were not yet in the country were left stranded and wondering what it meant for them.

The export market for fresh goods has dropped off to a minimum with limited access to shipping and Chinese ports, and now the effects to our primary sector are deepening. In some cases, product and logs have been unable to be delivered or offloaded at their destination.

Many businesses were able to react and immediately engage with other partners to create additional markets, but this is not easy in the quantities that are now available. In some cases, work has reduced or stopped so that an oversupply does not occur. If this continues, the economy will slow and workers will be laid off.

This is having a disruptive effect on local manufacturing and engineering. Key components are not able to be supplied and work is being slowed or stopped. China is the main supply chain for so many of our goods that the ramifications are wider than just tourism.

Yes, tourism is vital to the economy of this country and the double whammy of floods effecting the jewels in our tourism crown also has not helped — but where were the Government’s business continuity plans?

Of the recently announced $11 million in support for tourism, $10 million will go to diversifying the marketing portfolio to other countries, and the other million to promoting local tourism. Nothing to support the businesses or the employees.

I think it’s time for the Government to look at the pressures on businesses, the continuing low business confidence, increasing costs and decreasing profits, and say that it hears businesses, is listening to them, and will delay the increase in minimum wage for a period of time.

Surely people being engaged in meaningful employment and earning a wage is better than businesses having to close their doors.