Facing the inexorable rise in the numbers of unemployed and beneficiaries, a successful transition to the largely speculative new economy requires a pragmatic plan, says Barry Dyer
Tragic deaths notwithstanding, those most affected by the Covid-19 virus are arguably the 500,000 small businesses representing 40 percent of the New Zealand economy.
Small business is a major employer which will need significant ongoing support to successfully transition to a new operational environment.
The government has done an excellent job of mobilising public opinion in support of the measures deemed necessary to minimise the presence of the virus throughout the community.
It is already apparent New Zealand is successfully controlling the spread of the virus, giving more time to improve our capability and the resources not present when the first infected visitors passed through our border.
Having confidence in the science and the measured advice of our world class health professionals, we have thus far avoided the political confusion and misinformation undermining efforts to protect communities, even in well-resourced countries.
Establishing the Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) chaired by the Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges leading a majority of non government members is intended to ensure appropriate scrutiny of government while Parliament is suspended.
Public servants have wide-ranging decision-making powers. The ERC is empowered to question decisions and require comprehensive explanations arguably far more effectively than parliament’s ineffectual “Question Time” or the increasingly timid reporters during the daily Covid-19 media briefings.
The ERC is responsible for obtaining an inquiry into the suitability and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) after claims it was not reaching the front line despite assurances there was no shortage.
The independent ERC is vital in determining our future. This includes championing pragmatic measures to enable small businesses, not presently a government priority.
Critical analysis of the government’s performance is increasingly portrayed as tantamount to treason, leading to virulent personal attacks through the ubiquitous and increasingly influential social media.
They, sadly, are supported by biased mainstream media commentators desperate to create the news rather than report it.
Thus far, trustworthy and scientifically sound healthcare information, delivered by health professionals, enjoys a high level of public trust, enabling compliance with the severe control measures we accept as necessary if community transmission of the virus is to be avoided.
Small business backed by community support
Having secured the support of the community, enabling easing of some constraints, the challenge now must be to successfully engage with the business community to restore confidence and provide the certainty essential to any reformed economic environment.
Government is more comfortable dealing with the larger companies, “too big to fail” finance, infrastructure, energy, utilities, an airline and food producers, with guaranteed customers, substantial resources and effective lobbyists.
In comparison, thousands of small business operators closed up with minimal warning.
They are struggling to survive without customers and are reliant on the limited 12-week wages subsidy.
The business survival plan
Rather than income tax deferrals for businesses with no income and facing rent and utility demands, any financial assistance must be flexible to enable business operators to meet their most pressing needs.
As people return to work, attention will shift to the government’s sound plan to rebuild and later reshape our social and economic circumstances. Government’s belief in the ‘Power of the State to do Good’ heralding greater government involvement is to be launched in the May Budget.
A strategy to enable business to survive and prosper is best developed by a committee of business experts (CBE) to complement the success of the ERC and able to restore confidence and certainty throughout the business community.
Roadblocks or stumbling blocks
Meanwhile, social media and increasingly irresponsible media outlets are breathlessly reporting various idiotic ideas are facts, a recent example being injecting yourself with a disinfectant.
If you thought for a nanosecond this suggestion would not be taken seriously, then why report it in our mainstream media?
As the reported Covid-19 death toll passes 200,00, scientists pursuing a Covid 19 vaccine are calling on the embattled World Health Organisation to develop an international protocol for sharing information and ultimately ensuring approved vaccines are freely available.
Short on detail and a false sense of reality
Calls for greater local production to replace lost imports are bereft of detail but underestimate the resilience of the global economy.
It will likely be years before a proven vaccine enables widespread international travel to restore our lucrative tourism and foreign student markets.
We will focus on supplying high quality food for a hungry world, requiring more expensive, dedicated freight aircraft to supply our most important markets.
No doubt our national airline is investigating the conversion of aircraft to meet the demand.
Chemistry the ultimate safe solution
Chemistry will provide the answer, though probably nor as quickly as we would wish.
Chemical suppliers are playing their part in helping to safeguard the community in response to the Covid-19 challenge.
They are providing members and entrepreneurs seeking to diversify into importing or switching production to meet the burgeoning demand for hand sanitisers and disinfectants with guidance through complex and often confusing compliance requirements.
Increased production can mean exceeding safe storage thresholds and the capability of equipment, increasing the risk to employees and highlighting the responsibility of a business operator to safeguard people and the environment.
The views expressed by Media Solutions Ltd Content Partner, Responsible Care chief executive Barry Dyer, may not necessarily be those of Responsible Care New Zealand