The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) maintains its services for members, and the wider business and industry community during this time of preparatory stage for entry of COVID-19 into the country.
SICCI Chairman, Mr Jeremy Bartlett said the public health measures that have been implemented to protect our people has unfortunately brought our economy to a halt.
“Our tourism industry overnight has collapsed and many of our other sectors are suffering.
“For many small Pacific Islands states it’s a double tragedy, a public health and economic crisis. The impacts on our livelihoods and society will be wide reaching and broad. How it all plays out depends how we can find a balance between protecting our public health while managing the effects on the economy keeping in mind that actions need to bear in mind that this is a long drawn out approach rather than dealing with a one-off event,” he said.
“The SICCI secretariat has been working hard, all the while keeping at the core of interventions and services, the need to protect lives and livelihoods; support our employees and their families and, support our enterprises to bear out the global pandemic,” he added.
Covid-19 Impact Survey
From last week, SICCI has been conducting an enterprise survey with business and industry to better understand the situation and challenges faced due to the ongoing challenges brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the Preparatory measures in country.
Ms Naomi Mara, the SICCI Membership Services Officer explains.
“The survey asks whether the enterprise is still in operation fully on site; fully but remotely working; or partially or non-operating. The survey also asks if there have been dismissals or planned dismissals due to COVID19 impacts, as well as assess total dismissed so far.
“Also, respondents are asked what their main challenges are, whether it is cashflow, worker absence due to illness or government orders, disrupted supply chains, business partners being affected, clients being affected and therefore dampened demand, or difficulty in loan repayments,” Ms Mara said.
The survey closes this week and SICCI welcomes respondents from all business and industry regardless whether they are members of the Chamber or not.
Exemption for lockdown
Also starting last week, SICCI has been facilitating the exemption-application process for business and industry to operate in a lockdown situation.
SICCI Export Industry Development Officer, Mr Ronnie Golopitu has been relaying to the Prime Minister’s office, applications made by enterprises to ensure that some activities approved as ‘essential’ can continue in a lockdown situation.
Mr Golopitu has this to say: “We are clear to all interested businesses that a lockdown will be enforced once a COVID-19 case is registered and that this can last anywhere from 7 to 14 days.”
“We are clear that the Prime Minister’s office through the Oversight Committee is responsible for administering exemptions to operate through a lockdown, and that considerations can be to mitigate for emergency breakdowns in their systems or to maintain provision of essential goods such as food, medical supplies and services including automated banking, money transfer services for Honiara residents.”
Mr Golopitu continues: “To qualify for an exemption the applicant needs to make strong case as well as indicate readiness to adopt, or have already developed and are using Standard Operating Procedures appropriate to COVID-19 preparation and also response.”
SICCI and Business Link Pacific partnership
The Chamber is working to finalise a partnership with Business Link Pacific (BLP), a private sector development programme funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and delivered by DT Global.
BLP is a multi-country private sector development initiative operating in six Pacific Islands, including the Solomon Islands. BLP works with Business Advisory Services providers (BASPs) to support SMEs to access good quality, affordable and targeted business advisory services, such as accounting, marketing or market certification.
Ms Mara says of the BLP Partnership: “For SICCI, and within my direct area of responsibility, is the value-added service for businesses so that what we do, adds to business growth. And we do that through the networking events we convene, the training, the business-to-business linkages we facilitate.”
SICCI last year talked with Business Link Pacific office to implement its activities in the Solomon Islands.
“BLP activities in the region involve a quality system, a subsidy scheme, and diagnostic and referral service to address issues of affordability, access and availability for SMEs.
“We were excited to hear from the Samoa Chamber of Commerce that BLP had been an enormous help for their members especially SMEs, as here just by their numbers, our SMEs make up over 70% of SICCI membership,” Ms Mara said.
She said through this partnership, SICCI through its Membership and Services Department look forward to working with services-providers in company law, in IT services, in human resource management, in accounting services, in organisational development, in all twelve of the specialist areas so that they can get referrals.
“A long-term goal would be that SMEs utilise this referral pathway and the subsidy that comes with it now, and over time appreciate the value in seeking out and paying for these services.
SICCI do appreciate the immediate need in this time of COVID-19, of small, family-owned and more vulnerable SMEs who are looking for direction, for specialist advice, for clients.
“Therefore, the BLP partnership represents new ways of accessing custom, and for the SMEs, this program represents technical advice that can help them make decisions and to tide them through these uncertain times,” SICCI Membership and Services Officer, Ms Mara said.
The Chamber continues to represent its members interests and views on the different Government committees and also to provide feedback to the Government to understand the impact of COVID-19 global pandemic on the Solomon Islands economy.
SICCI wishes to reiterate that undertaking these activities will ensure that it continues to meet its value-add service for its members, and at the same time harnesses its strong foundation in relationships with Government, and therefore policy dialogue to effect change.