Private sector reacts to impact

Trade & Investment Commissioner Caleb Jarvis, Jeremy Grennell, general manager - Exports, PTI Australia,right, catches up with businesses in Fiji, February 2020, before international borders closed. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ninety-three per cent of businesses in Fiji had reported a significant decline in sales or revenue because of the impacts caused by COVID-19.

This was the results published in the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Pacific Business Monitor Report which stated 91 per cent of Pacific businesses had felt the brunt of the pandemic.

PTI Australia’s Trade and Investment Commissioner Caleb Jarvis stated the research was very important for the region as the feedback from the Pacific private sector was encouraging.

“Through our day-to-day interactions with businesses in the Pacific, we hear the stories of how COVID-19 is impacting different kinds of businesses and the challenges they face,” he said.

“As a global PTI network we see the importance of quantifying the anecdotal feedback we are receiving to inform not only our work in the Pacific but also provide valuable longitudinal data to governments, donors and stakeholders.

“As we move forward, the private sector will be key in rebuilding Pacific economies.

“It’s a long road ahead and it is imperative that the impact of COVID-19 has on businesses in the Blue Pacific is monitored, and that the views of the smaller island states, where qualitative data isn’t readily available, is included.”

He said digital connectivity was important for businesses to consider when buffering themselves from the effects of the pandemic.

He added 22 per cent of those surveyed reported they were doing more business online, and many businesses that had already moved to digital have found they were able to reposition themselves.

According to a statement from Pacific Trade Investment the PTI Pacific Business Monitor would track the sentiment and performance of these businesses over the next six months.

The aim of the monitor is to survey the businesses every fortnight with the dual aim of providing governments, donors and stakeholders with up-to-minute data on how businesses across the region were being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would also provide the PTI network with information which according to the statement would help guide their decisions on the best approaches to support the private sector through its work.

PTI stated the first survey of businesses from across 16 Pacific nations revealed the impact of the pandemic in particular by the closing of international borders and travel restriction.

“Just over a quarter of businesses that responded are fully operational (43 per cent are partly operational, 29 per cent have temporarily closed operations and 2 per cent have permanently closed).

“With 62 per cent of businesses saying they need financial support to assist their business moving forward.

“Managing the financial and emotional pressure is taking a toll on Pacific business decision-makers and owners; 59 per cent reported the crisis has had or will have a negative impact on their mental health, with just under half reporting they are feeling worried most of the time (15 per cent are worried all the time),” stated PTI. It also stated the Pacific remained optimistic as two thirds of businesses were confident they would survive COVID-19, despite 48 per cent of businesses were not expecting their revenue to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2021 or later.

“There are also high levels of uncertainty, with 34 per cent unsure when revenue will return to pre-COVID levels.”

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