More business shut-downs possible with continued seaports closure
The BVI Chamber of Commerce & Hotel Association (BVICCHA) said the April 2021 extension for the reopening of seaports is a major blow that could result in the permanent closure of some businesses.
The BVICCHA was referring specifically to businesses in the accommodations and food services sector, which the organisation said has taken a hit for the second year in a row.
“The accommodations and food services sector, which accounted for over $80 million in economic activity in 2016, has suffered another major disruption that could result in permanent business closures. While the business community appreciates the priority of public health and safety, a balance is needed to protect livelihoods that, if not preserved, will have a long-lasting impact and result in socioeconomic fallout such as poverty due to chronic underemployment or unemployment,” the BVICCHA said in a public release.
The BVICCHA bemoaned the reality that many businesses are facing, saying many have earned little to no revenue over the past 12 months, are in a dire position and unable to return persons to work or pay severance without going bankrupt.
In addition, the organisation said some businesses have still not received business relief assistance promised by the government some six months ago.
“As reported in October 2020, many businesses that rely on tourism dollars, directly or indirectly, have exhausted savings trying to survive thus far, and some are going into debt trying to sustain operations. Some businesses are still reporting that they have not received business relief assistance promised from six months ago,” the organization said.
The BVICCHA, therefore, called on the government to implement strategic actions to diversify the economy in the next three to five years. It also renewed calls for a Comprehensive Economic Recovery & Development Plan to be developed with stakeholder consultations that include unemployment benefit scheme, economic relief/paycheck protection program, bank deposit insurance, moratoriums, and bankruptcy regulations.
The BVICCHA also recommended that the government start doing quarterly economic reports to provide information for planning and decision-making.