GEORGE NEWS - The George Business Chamber is requesting that systematic unlocking of economic activity be considered urgently and rolled out as soon as possible.
Dr Dennis Farrell, chairperson of the chamber, stressed that the chamber supports the extended lockdown measures announced last Thursday by Pres Cyril Ramaphosa.
However, the systematic unlocking of economic activity must take place, albeit under strict guidelines. He said this is important to help the most vulnerable workforce to be brought back into play. It will start reducing the impact on businesses, specifically SMMEs.
He said the chamber is very concerned about the economic future as people have known it.
"Our [Garden Route] economy has been predominantly driven by the financial services and retail sectors. Tourism is grouped under retail. Both these sectors have started indicating strain before Covid-19.
"The financial services sector is facing potential massive default on debt, while the retail sector could be facing renewed pressure from e-commerce business operations," he said.
He said if the lockdown is called off on 1 May, the tourism / hospitality and related industries will take about 18 to 24 months to return to pre-Covid-19 levels.
"Taking into account that many attractions and events have been cancelled, people who are still in employ would have exhausted their leave and foreign tourism will take time to recover as we are guided by the travel restrictions of their countries as well as ours, I do not foresee a 'harvest' December 2020 tourism season.
"This will also impact other retail sectors. We will need to reinvent our economic landscape and 'sow in the fertile soil' in which we can rejuvenate our economy."
What do members say?
The chamber did a survey among its own members. There were numerous individual respondents who clearly stated the dire need for assistance. At the time of closure of the survey on 4 April, 38% indicated that they were considering closing their businesses and 51% indicated that they were considering retrenching people.
"The sheer numbers of potentially unemployed people must be our biggest concern and threat," said Farrell.
"Recently Johann Rupert indicated that unemployment could rise from around 38% to over 50%. Should we take into account the previous estimated 55% of youth being unemployed, we can just imagine how this figure could escalate."
Tune in to a podcast about the survey results at youtu.be//IE9T6uviuHA.
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'