Members of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) say local businesses are bracing for another challenging year.
In a statement issued by the SICCI Media Unit on Thursday, its members expressed sentiments that the past twelve (12) months have been some of the most challenging.
“During these past 12 months, the Solomon Islands as a country went through a period of uncertainties, especially among businesses.
“In 2019, the country held its National General Elections (NGE), a major shift in its foreign policy and a sudden change in the wage structure in regards to the 100% increase of the legal minimum wage,” the statement said.
Jay Bartlett, SICCI Chairman in his address on the occasion of the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday 25th March said many have been optimistic about 2020, but unfortunately this may not be the case.
“As the Central Bank has highlighted recently in their media statement, the impact of the global pandemic [ COVID-19) could potentially have far-reaching impacts on our health, our economy and our way of life as we know it,” he said.
The Chamber has raised in the past Solomon Islands’ vulnerability with a narrow economic base that is too reliant on resources which leaves the country exposed to global fluctuations in commodity prices and the urgent need to act to diversify our base.
CBSI has said the coronavirus will likely have a considerable negative impact on the Solomon Islands economy.
“The spread and considerable disruption of this pandemic will be exacerbated by the increasingly intertwined trade and investment relationships between China and its neighbours in the Asia Pacific region.
“Being a small open economy, the Solomon Islands will likely be adversely affected through the trade channel and thereafter the economy, and even fiscal operations,” the CBSI statement highlighted.
Mr. Bartlett said the Chamber has risen to challenges faced in the past and calls on all member businesses to be ready to face what is in front of us.
“In the past when we as a nation have faced significant challenges, we have proven to be resilient. And today is no different. We are in uncharted waters as a nation, region, and people,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett said as a Chamber and business, the urgency before us is to come together to achieve three things, to protect people and their livelihoods, to keep people employed and support their families and support our local businesses during this challenging period.
“In the coming days, we need to be prepared for some of the changes that will be put in place that will restrict our personal liberties, our businesses and our engagement with the world at large.
“For the economy, we need to act like there is a crisis before we actually get into one and we will be working closely with our political leadership to look at what measures can be put in place to give the support in the areas that it needed the most,” the SICCI Chair said.
He said now more than ever, there will be a greater need for leadership and direction from our National leaders and information sharing and collaboration from our Financial Institutions such as Central Bank, National Provident Fund, Commercial Banks and State-Owned Enterprises.
“And communication and action from our Civil Society, Churches, and communities,” he said.