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Surveying the damage: The COVID effect

It is a season of surveys across the Pacific. Governments, international organisations, industry bodies and chambers of commerce are surveying the private sector to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the sample size of most of those already published has been small, the hope is that the results will inform the type of support provided by governments and multilateral agencies in the middle to longer term.

The Pacific Trade and Invest (PTI) Business Monitor is surveying a small number of businesses every two weeks over a six-month period.

In its most recent report (the second in the series) released in early June, PTI says the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses is starting to decline; 88% reported this impact compared to 91% in survey one. The second survey had 143 respondents, all online and all decision makers or owners in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Almost three-quarters of businesses in Fiji reported a “very negative” impact from COVID-19. Across the board, 90% of businesses reported a decline in revenue of some magnitude.

70% of businesses were confident they will survive COVID-19 but half do not expect revenue to return to pre-COVID levels until next year or later. A quarter of businesses expect to return to business as usual this year.

The three main challenges identified by respondents were not knowing how long the crisis will last, the impact of closed international borders and poor cash flow. A lesser challenge was a lack of knowledge and skilled staff.

40% of the respondents said they needed support to access new markets, either locally or overseas, slightly more than in the first survey.

The PTI survey also asked respondents about their mental health. Nearly a quarter of them said that COVID-19 is having a very negative impact on their mental health, and almost two-thirds said it is having a negative impact.

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