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Honiara, SOLOMONS – July 31, 2020: 1:52pm (SOLOMON STAR): The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) reminds leaders and the general public on the hardships that businesses and industries are facing at this time of State of Public Emergency (SOPE).

The National Parliament on Wednesday this week voted to extend the SOPE for another four months as of 25t July 2020.

The Chamber on behalf of its members’ requests nuanced discussions following the confirmation of the SoPE that will end on 25 November 2020.

SICCI reiterates that as a country, Solomon Islands and especially leaders must be well informed to arrive at the right balance between the health of our communities, and businesses.

“We acknowledge the Government’s intention to protect us from COVID-19 by imposing measures and taking better control of our international borders,” a SICCI said in a media statement.

SICCI confirms that these measures have had impacts on business and industry in the country, and also come on the back of already-visible effects most especially, reduced cashflow from reduced demand for goods and services.

“Business and industry challenges were that customers and clients have been affected and there is lower-than-normal demand for their goods and services; cashflow to maintain staff and operations is now inadequate, and not denying to the knock-on effect also of badly affected business partners.

“Vulnerable companies continue to demonstrate a shallow depth of resilience and are vulnerable which lacks inappropriate tools and access to savings, loans, and grants. This translates to an inability to capitalize on emerging or new business opportunities,” the statement said.

In its efforts to convey business experiences to inform the Government decision-making process during the SOPE, the Chamber has been successful to also have a say in the exempting of shipping vessels from mandated quarantine periods.

To date, the Chamber has been raising and relaying to the National COVID-19 Oversight Committee the impacts of the travel restrictions currently in place as it affects the movement of people, goods, and supplies into the country.

In terms of export and import during the first State of Public Emergency (SOPE), the negative impacts of the restrictions included delayed cargo and added costs.

The SICCI statement reminds us that the COVID-19 global pandemic now highlights more starkly an already harsh and critical business environment.

“SICCI has been a partner through the years for Government, on behalf of employers in the country, and will continue to be here through thick and thin.

“Therefore, despite COVID-19, we would like to maintain the momentum on key reforms such as on tax, on land matters, on rolling out of enabling infrastructure that trade and commerce so rely upon,” SICCI said.

The SICCI statement further requests that the systems and processes that have been developed to catch the virus and to manage it when it enters the country’s borders are implemented to the strictest degree.

“We also suggest that instead of being based on fear and denial, we implement measures that are methodological, based on facts and science.

“Being able to limit its spread if the virus comes into the country should be the primary objective, this means well- developed, well-resourced quarantine measures and institutions, with strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocols.”

“This means contact-tracing protocols that kick in every time a case is detected at the borders,” the SICCI statement said.

The statement further added that there could be a balancing measure where the Government allows travel into the country on a regular basis – controlled and with all the mitigation requirements such as medical certificates, and prior testing from the originating country.

“Doing this will allow certainty regarding the movement of essential persons. With our neighbours in the region, the use of mobile-based solutions such as contact tracing apps is rolled out to complement allowing some flights.”

The Chamber sees that it’s an infrastructure-led path that Solomon Islands takes to recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic, and understands that big national projects are hinging on key personnel being brought in.”

“Further, we welcome the Oversight Committee to revisit the mandatory quarantine of shipping vessels, as we are confident that most shipping lines are now compliant to the best-practices in terms of COVID-19 protocols.”

The SICCI statement finally reiterates that there needs to be a shared understanding that the livelihoods of people whether as business owners or as salary and wage-earners, are at high risk.

“It is worrying that there is an increase in workers being impacted such as the estimated five hundred workers. In other countries, forms of wage subsidies such as the Employment Stabilisation Program in Vanuatu were implemented to cushion the blow of lessened income for households.”

“We would welcome the opportunity to discuss what more can be done here in the country that balances imperative of job security, of continued revenue for Government, with meaningful employment by the business owner.”

In concluding, SICCI statement commends the efforts of all frontline officers for ensuring that our points of entry are well-policed.

“We are only as strong as our vulnerable points in the battle to make sure our country survives this COVID-19 global pandemic.

“All Government officers who continue to deliver services for the general public and private sector, and who ensure that the front-line officers are able to perform their tasks. Your efforts are appreciated,” the SICCI statement said. (PACNEWS)

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