Business confidence is growing as government restrictions ease in the ACT however there is still concern surrounding what a post-COVID future will look like for the local economy.
Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said since the Federal Government announced their three-step plan for re-opening Australia after COVID-19, and the States and Territories developed their own plans, “there has been an increase in business and consumer confidence”.
“What business has wanted is to get back to business, to be trading again and getting people back into jobs.”
However, Mr Catt acknowledged it is going to take time for business to recover especially as for some sectors it isn’t just COVID-19 they are recovering from. He said sectors like hospitality and tourism, “have been dealing with tough conditions since December last year”.
“When they were emerging from the bushfires, smoke, and hail damage it was only a few weeks before COVID restrictions,” Mr Catt said, adding it was many of those sectors – retail, hospitality and tourism – who were first to be restricted.
According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s COVID-19 Business Conditions Survey Report 2020 2nd Edition, business revenue has been increasingly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions “with almost 40% of businesses experiencing an 80% decline and over 80% experiencing a decline of over 25% relative to normal for this time of the year”.
Despite the decline in revenue, Mr Catt said locally the number of businesses that have closed down is relatively low. He attributes this to government assistance however is concerned a large number of operators may face closure once the benefits cease.
“There is growing concern as restrictions lift and people return to work what the business environment will look like after September,” Mr Catt said.
“There will be some changes. What the future will look like is not what the past looks like.”
He said businesses are also concerned about the future of JobKeeper, which they assumed would be available till September 2020, given the Federal Government’s decision to end the scheme early for the childcare sector.
Canberra businesses are meeting over the next two weeks to map out the shape of the local economy in the post-COVID era.
The Canberra Business Chamber is convening a series of in-depth forums with the Territory’s other major industry associations – the first one held on Friday 5 June.
Key issues raised within the first forum included the need for ongoing cashflow for businesses to survive in the post-COVID environment, JobKeeper continuation, ensuring the ACT economy remains competitive, and more support for start-ups and innovation, as well as the ACT tourism sector. A consistent theme has been the risk for many businesses of “falling off a cliff” when support runs out and they are left without a viable operation.
The results will be collated and presented to the business community and the ACT Government in the coming weeks.
Individual businesses that want to have their say can email the Chamber directly at [email protected]