Time to support our communities

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan

A word from Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan

Two months ago I wrote a column talking the importance of business continuity plans, business disruption risks and making sure that people are thinking about how they would carry out their daily business activity if there were global disruptions. Fast-forward two months and there are very few who would have predicted the size and scale of the current global change that has happened and the speed of it. Thinking that whole countries would be in lockdown, some of the world’s major cities basically closed, that world travel demand would plummet by over 50% and world stock markets would have come down so far so quickly.

The next 12 months are going to be difficult for many business, communities and families. This will not just have an economic impact but will also have significant effects on our social structure and communities. It will make us look at how we carry out our daily lives which may require significant change. Now is the time were we need to focus on our communities to make sure that everyone in them is supported. This is the time that our social support networks and other community organisations are really stretched. The need for their services increase but sometimes their funding does not match or the support they get financially is actually reduced as people can’t pay that bill.

The announcement of a $12.1billion package is welcomed as a package from both a business and social perspective. However, I believe this will need to be only the start. We will need to examine at both a local and regional level the effect of rates rises, other essential infrastructure cost increases and maybe be brave enough to say this is not the time and how do we all share a bit of the pain that many of us are currently feeling.

Yes, three months ago those plans may have seemed reasonable, but right now the view from the window shows quite a different landscape.