We are living in unprecedented times. As many firms in Northern Ireland have come slowly blinking in the sunlight out of lockdown, trying to gain a foothold once again, building up their clientele base and their sales, they now have to deal with the withdrawal of the furlough scheme which has kept so many people in work. Is this going to cause mass redundancies or can the vast majority of Northern Ireland businesses somehow recover and thrive once more?
We Are Operating In A Challenging Business Environment
Angela McGowan, who is the CBI NI director, has some interesting observations on this subject which she has shared in an article on the Belfast Telegraph website. Here are some snippets from what she wrote in the article:
“When providing commentary on the Top 100 companies over the past few years, I have often referred to the challenging business environment in which Northern Ireland’s firms operate. That feels like a gross understatement this year, as halfway through 2020 companies are facing an unparalleled health and economic crisis, alongside efforts to deliver a workable Brexit trade agreement.
“So how has this affected the economy? News of a 2.2% drop in GDP in quarter one might have been in-line with expectations, but it was still the biggest quarterly contraction since 1979. Importantly however, the data only covers January to March, including just one week of lockdown. There’s clear indication the slowdown was already in progress, with consumers already avoiding public places and spending less. While we all hope for a surge in economic activity as lockdown lifts slowly and carefully, our optimism may have to be slightly tempered.
Investing In Infrastructure & People
“For Northern Ireland recovery means investing in infrastructure and people. The much-needed, and long-overdue, Investment Strategy from the Executive would give clear direction to private sector firms looking to deliver infrastructure development. We also need to accelerate our pipeline of shovel-ready projects, while keeping an eye on sustainability goals. Focusing on renewable energy, decarbonising transport and manufacturing, together with implementing an energy efficiency drive, would not only help deliver on net-zero targets but create sustainable jobs. Investing in people is not only critical for post-pandemic recovery, also but for Northern Ireland’s long-term economic success.
“The onus on government and business is to help retrain and reskill people whose jobs no longer exist, taking regional needs into account. But it’s also time to address underachievement in our schools, lack of agility in our education system and reduce huge disparities in educational attainment.
“Make no mistake – the UK Government’s support of business during the crisis has saved countless firms and potentially millions of jobs. But the rising number of benefit claimants, alongside redundancy fears, shows just how hugely damaging this pandemic has been for our economy. Employers and employees across the country have demonstrated amazing agility and resilience to cope with such a challenging cocktail of pressures and uncertainty. That tenacity and resilience may therefore be needed more than ever as we move into the latter half of the year.
Help With The Recovery Process
At WHR Accountants we are committed to helping as many businesses as possible through this crisis. We can partner with businesses to help them with their future business plans, economic projections, funding opportunities and many other accountancy related matters.
If you have a business which needs some professional accountancy advice please give our offices a call in the first instance on 028 3752 2909.