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PTI network survey on impacts to businesses in pacific island nations



Following is an introduction by Pacific Trade Invest’s (PTI’s) ‘Pacific Business Monitor’ survey to understand the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on the Pacific’s private sector. It is followed by a summary of the findings by PNG Business News correspondent Jason Kaut. Read to find out more, further below.


INTRODUCTION (PTI)

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a global health emergency, and a global economic slowdown impacting millions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) around the world including the Pacific. Travel bans and restrictions on gatherings have particularly affected businesses in the Pacific, with tourism playing a major role in local economies.


Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) has commissioned Fifth Quadrant, an independent research agency, to run a fortnightly survey to understand the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the Pacific’s private sector. The second wave of PTI’s “Pacific Business Monitor” surveys includes responses gathered from 1–7 June 2020 from 143 businesses across the Pacific Islands.


This report includes data from the top three Pacific Countries that provided responses from (Fiji, PNG and Niue), providing insights into the nuances between different Pacific countries and the effect COVID-19 is having on the private sector.


It is a long road ahead and through the fortnightly PTI Pacific Business Monitor surveys, the objective is to provide governments, donors and stakeholders with valuable data on how businesses in the Pacific are doing.


IMPACTS TO PACIFIC BUSINESSES DURING COVID-19 CRISIS: SURVEY

The level of impact COVID-19 is having on businesses is starting to decline, with fewer businesses (88%) in Survey 2 reporting a negative impact compared to 91% in Survey, though this is a very small margin and the end of the Covid-19 crisis still uncertain.


Fiji remains the most heavily affected with nearly three-quarters reporting a very negative impact.


The proportion of businesses reporting a significant decline in revenue due to COVID-19 has dropped to 66% (down from 79% in the last survey).


Meanwhile, 70% of business are confident they will survive COVID-19, but 50% don’t expect revenue to return to pre-COVID levels until 2021 or later.


Most nations are in negative unchartered waters with predictions of negative growth and recession becoming commonplace for many.


Survey 2’s 70% confidence rate includes a majority 48% who are ‘somewhat confident’ while only 22% were categorized as ‘Very confident’.


The Confidence in Business Survival after Covid-19 has however increased by five per cent – positive news all around, despite the slight increase and the challenging times under a ‘new normal’.


On the other end of the scale, 10 per cent of businesses in the Pacific are ‘Not Confident at all’’ of business survival after Covid-19.


For Papua New Guinea, 58% are confident business will survive Covid-19 crisis. Of these, 31% are very confident while 27% are skeptical. Twelve percent are not confident at all.

The Survey 2 also again looked at Business Operational Status which was categorized under four categories of Fully Operational (FO), Partly Operational (PO), Temporarily Closed )TC) and Permanently Closed (PC).


It found among Pacific businesses surveyed that 27% were FO, an increase of 1% from Survey 1 of the same businesses, while 50% were PO, a seven percent increase. TC businesses reduced from 29% in Survey 1 to 10% in Survey 2. There has been a 2% increase in businesses in the Pacific that have permanently closed doors due to Covid-19 crisis.


The Actions taken by participants to reduce cost and damage to business included the following in order of priority;

  • Reduced Other Operational Costs

  • Reduced Working hours,

  • Reduced Staff numbers

  • Reduced Staff wages

  • Diversified products and services

  • Requested Rent Relief

  • Pivoted the business to sell and do more online

The survey discovered that many of those surveyed pivoted their business to sell and do more online during the first wave then discovered during the second wave of surveys.

A commanding 62 percent said there are barriers preventing them from auctioning initiatives to supporting their businesses. This has risen 10% from the previous survey.


Lack of government support and stimulus has been the major barrier for PNG followed by closed borders/lockdown, lack of finance/revenue/cash flow and the last barrier cited is a lack of knowledge and skilled staff which PNG recorded a low 6%.

In line with the slightly waning negative impact on business, the proportion of businesses reporting a decline in revenue due to COVID-19 has dropped to two-thirds (down from three-quarters last wave), with Fiji remaining the most impacted of the 143 businesses surveyed across the Pacific. However, this is still a massive 90 per cent reporting a Decline in Revenue.


In Papua New Guinea, according to the survey conducted on a portion of the business community and obviously working in collaboration with local peak bodies, 62 per cent of surveyed PNG businesses have seen a massive decline in revenue while 31% saw only a slight decline.


Regionally and in PNG a massive 92 per cent of those surveyed believed Covid-19 has had a negative impact on the local economy while Confidence in Business Survival scored a respectable 70 percent across the 146 businesses surveyed in the region.

CHALLENGES AND SUPPORT NEEDED

  • Top 3 challenges as a result of COVID-19 remain unchanged:

  • » Not knowing how long the crisis will last (90%).

  • » Impact of closed international borders (90%).

  • » Poor cash flow (85%).

  • 40% of businesses need support to access new markets (local or overseas), an increase from 35%in Survey 1.

PERSONAL IMPACTS ON BUSINESS DECISION-MAKERS

  • Nearly two-thirds of business decision-makers are now reporting that COVID-19 is having a negative impact on their mental health, with nearly a quarter reporting a very negative impact.

ABOUT PACIFIC TRADE INVEST

The PTI Network is an agency of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and is the Pacific’s leading trade and investment promotion agency.


With offices in Australia, China and New Zealand, the PTI Network develops and promotes trade and investment across international markets.

Note:

  • All Respondents are Decision Makers in Small to Medium businesses across the Pacific

  • Responses for Survey 2, were collected 1-7 June, 2020

  • All surveys were completed online

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