It was with great pleasure that I listened to the announcement from the Prime Minister on Friday with regards to a second stimulus package. This scheme provides hope to businesses that they will get through this crisis. If we are able to keep the majority of businesses open and people in jobs then this will reduce both the short-term humanitarian impact of COVID-19, and make our recovery more likely in the future.
The Wage Subsidy Scheme is targeting businesses who have been most impacted, and directly contributes to the salaries of their workers. By protecting these businesses and jobs, the Government is sending a clear message of determination and hope out into the community.
The SME Support Scheme provides direct support to many of our smallest businesses – I know from many conversations that I have had how much strain many of our people have been under, and this scheme will support these enterprises to keep on going. On behalf of all the business owners who will benefit from both of these schemes, I would like to say thank you to the Government of Vanuatu and the hardworking public servants who have designed this scheme.
I would also like to extend my thanks to all business owners for their efforts and sacrifices over the past 14 months. The border closure and subsequent loss of the tourism dollar has had a profound impact on many businesses. I know that many of you have endured sleepless nights thinking about how your business can survive, and many of you have been relying on your personal savings. Businesses have been doing all they can to keep as many staff on as possible and these actions have certainly helped thousands of people, not just staff members directly but their extended families and communities. For all of this, and much more, I thank you.
I would finally like to thank the banking sector. The support from the banks to many businesses has been invaluable, and without this support many of our members would be in a much worse position since the borders closed.
I know that for many businesses, confidence has been at rock bottom for much of the past year, and it is our hope that this scheme will prove to be a turning point. Of course, every business is different, but it is also our hope that those businesses which can afford to will use this support to increase their staffing hours or even their staff numbers. If your business can afford to do so and it makes sense to do so then this will not only help your business, but it will ease some of the pressures which many people are facing right now with costs of living, as well as supporting the wider economy by increasing the amount of money flowing around.
Whilst this package offers very generous and welcomed support to businesses, we must of course also acknowledge that this will not immediately turn everything around, and that there is a lot of hard work ahead. This scheme offers an excellent foundation on which we can all build. From the Chamber’s perspective, we are fully committed to doing everything that we can to help get through this crisis. We are ready and willing to support in any way possible with the implementation of the wage subsidy scheme and SME support initiative, and in addition the vaccine rollout, to help make both critical projects a success.
The first stimulus package did of course see delays in its implementation, and it is in everyone’s best interest to make this one more effective. Whilst there was understandable frustration at the confusion and delays in the first package, in certain instances members of the private sector behaved in an abusive and inappropriate manner to civil servants. This is unacceptable, and we strongly urge all members of the private sector to behave in an appropriate manner moving forward.
I do not want to finish on this note though. This stimulus package offers us some hope, and a solid platform on which to build, and so I would like to finish how I started, but once again saying thank you to Vanuatu’s Government and acknowledge the hard work of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.
VCCI will keep you updated on how the packages will be rolled out in greater detail when we have been briefed fully, and we will again assist our members in accessing this funding when it becomes available.