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Living with Covid requires long-term government support – Chambers Ireland

A new survey from Chambers Ireland shows that companies are still reporting a 32% decline in turnover despite the re-opening of most of the economy after the Covid-19 restrictions.

The new Chambers Ireland survey captured over 860 responses during the lead up to the imposition of new restrictions on activity in Dublin. 

The survey found that business activity is typically down 32% across the sample, though with strong business-size and sectoral effects. 

It also said that revenue expectations over the coming quarter is expected to be 36% below baseline.

Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said today’s data captures what the economy looks like while the virus was under control. 

“Significantly, even during circumstances where the outlook is relatively stable and the economy is mostly open, businesses are telling us that, on average, they envisage turn-over to be 30% less than this time last year. Some sectors are suffering significantly worse than other, but no sector can is considered to be doing well,” Mr Talbot said.

He also said the results of the survey supports the theory of a more “K-Shaped” recovery, where larger firms are doing badly relative to a normal year, but SMEs are impacted significantly more. 

“This may have to do with the predominance of SMEs in affected sectors, but the regional effects are important too,” Mr Talbot said.

Chambers Ireland said that in line with an ESRI’s report on SMEs last week, the debt burden for SMEs is growing. Sole traders believe they will only be able to service 48% of their debt that falls due over the coming 12 months, it added. 

Meanwhile, liquidity is likely to continue proving to be a problem for many businesses as considerable outstanding invoices are beginning steadily build up.

The burden is being felt hardest by smaller businesses with as many as 50% of microenterprises saying they are having difficulty receiving payments for outstanding invoices, today’s survey noted.

Chambers Ireland said the current “Living with Covid-19” strategy is set to last for the next six months, but in all likelihood, we will be living with the economic impact of the coronavirus for more longer.

Supports introduced to date have been valuable in sustaining business through the first wave, but it is likely that much more will be needed over the coming months, Chambers Ireland cautioned.

It also said that forbearance and flexibility from state agencies, banks and landlords must also continue to play a significant role in how the business community and the wider society is supported.

“It is in nobody’s interest to see liquidations, business closures and increased vacancies in towns and cities throughout the country,” it added.

Chambers Ireland said its members across the network understand the importance of protecting public health through reducing contacts and avoiding circumstances where people congregate. 

“But this has a cost, and the business community cannot bear this alone. Supports introduced to date have been valuable in sustaining business through the first wave. However, it is likely that much more will be needed over the coming months,” it added.

It said the state’s highest priority needs to be assigning sufficient resources to ensure that contact tracing and testing becomes effective at limiting the spread of this disease. “This has to become an imperative if we are to avoid large-scale community outbreaks,” it stated.

“If protecting livelihoods is the objective, then Government, through Budget 2021, must recognise what the business community has come to understand, Covid-19 will be with us for some time, and every part of our society needs support,” Chambers Ireland stated.

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