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Businesses identify liquidity, staff safety, infrastructure as essential

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Businesses in Nigeria have identified liquidity and staff safety among the most pressing needs they are concerned about, as they grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, latest survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Nigeria, has revealed.
 
The findings were revealed during a recent webinar hosted by the firm, on the economic implications and policy responses to COVID-19.
 
The survey had about 3,000 respondents ranging from managers to Chief Executive Officers and business owners.

Asked what their top business concerns were, 22.5 per cent pointed at liquidity – the availability of immediate cash to pay bills especially following disruption of business activities currently being experienced.
 
This was followed by safety of staff at 15.4 per cent, an indication that Nigerian businesses are people-focused, and was not only concerned about their profitability.
 


The third significant business concern identified was infrastructure for remote working (14.6 per cent), further buttressing the need for access to electricity and internet connectivity.
 
Providing the results of the findings Fiscal Policy Partner and West Africa Tax Leader at PwC, Taiwo Oyedele, noted that most businesses comprising of 78.4 per cent do not plan to lay off staff as a result of the crisis. This presents a very positive picture.
     
However, decisions on staff retention are often top management decisions, and this could mean that a good percentage of respondents may not be privy to such plans by their organisations. The other 21.6 per cent admit that they will lay off various percentages of staff as a consequence of the pandemic.
   
Of this group however, 55.3 per cent do not think government intervention will influence their decision to lay off staff with the rest indicating they would retain their employees if government’s intervention were able to take care of varying percentages of their staff wage bill.
   
As part of its societal impact, PwC has indicated that it would provide free business continuity support services to small businesses employing between five to 50 employees who undertake to retain all their staff during this period.
   

It would appear that the much-needed investments to stimulate growth and move the needle on poverty will be greatly impacted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis as 56.7 per cent of respondents indicated that they will delay investment decisions while 19.4 per cent stated that they would invest less.

Majority of the survey respondents think that governments interventions have either been grossly inadequate comprising 23.8 per cent or inadequate (43.9 per cent), with 17.5 per cent expressing indifference to what government has done up to the date of the survey. Only 14.4 per cent agree that government’s intervention has met their expectations.
     
This provides a clear message to government both at the federal and state levels, pointing either to the need to do more, or to better communicate what is being done already to help shape public perception.
     
Among the top two areas that respondents believe government’s intervention should be focused include tax relief representing 30 per cent, provision of loans at zero or low interest rate comprised of 29.3 per cent, and cash transfer to the poor with 16.9 per cent.
   
Overall, the businesses surveyed agree that the private sector has a role to play in supporting government’s fight against Covid-19 with 85.5 per cent suggesting that they are best suited to provide support in the area of provision of items, equipment and facilities compared to only 10.7 per cent who will consider donating cash to government.


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