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A man looks in the window of a closed business place along Queen Janelle Commissiong Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Kyron Regis

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A large section of the business community has acknowledged that the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be more significant than the negative medical impact of the outbreak itself.

The business leaders’ concerns were detailed in a Business Outlook Study conducted by Market Facts and Opinions alongside the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The findings indicate that business leaders “are worried that it is possible that the potential economic consequences (of COVID-19) may be more damaging than the physical toll exacted.”

“Most respondents (9 in 10) believe that the economic impact will be greater than the outbreak itself, that things are going to get worse before they get better and that job security is uncertain,” the findings said.

A similar proportion of the community also acknowledged the seriousness of the pandemic.

The study said the business community is very aware of the dangers that loom large due to the virus and believes this is a matter weightier than the fate of each individual business.

According to the report, they perceive the major challenge to be that of the survival of the overall economy and that the times ahead are filled with uncertainty.

Additionally, the business leaders are concerned about whether the general public will be compliant with the protocols introduced to limit the effects of the spread of the virus. Accordingly, the business community is of the view that if the population is compliant, the country may be able to go back to work sooner than later.

The study explained that it is imperative that these business leaders do not, by their actions, separate themselves from the sacrifice needed to go through the pain that awaits.

It noted: “Navigating the uncertain shoals requires the conviction that should all the parties work together, the pain would be shortened.”

The business community argued that this conviction will determine to a large measure the attitude and productivity of the workers on the other side of the ‘curve’.

The study noted that short-term thinking, in attempting to manage the economic risks, may create long-term negative effects. It said there is no obvious play-book and that business leaders will need to create their own.

With the arrival of COVID-19 to T&T, businesses have reported that there have been three major challenges to be faced: maintaining financial sustainability, addressing staff’s fears and concerns and adjusting business operations.

However, most participants in the survey are of the view that their employees are productive. The study said at least a third of the participating businesses indicated they have a committed workforce and that they can adopt remote work. It noted that more than half of the businesses which hold this view are within the finance, retail, manufacturing and construction industries, or are more likely to be categorised as those who have “essential workers”.

There was also a high level of satisfaction expressed with the Government’s performance in handling the pandemic. According to 9 in 10 of the participants, the Government’s job has made them either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’.

Nonetheless, while satisfaction in the Government’s performance is high, the study indicated that there is an apprehension about the Government’s ability to contain the spread of COVID-19. This is reflective of the strong view that collective and personal social responsibility – by means of the national effort to stay at home – affects the success of the Government.