CEO Update: Back to school, now back to business
There is consensus emerging that the Irish economy is experiencing a K-shaped recovery. Signs are that some exporting intensive sectors are experiencing strong growth and there are pockets of vibrant demand emerging in the regions arising from staycations. However, some businesses are still struggling to reopen and others prevented from doing so.
After months of preparation, the machinery of our education system and its people are charged up and it has been an uplifting week to see young people return to school. The undulations ahead are already apparent but an education system which can continue and flex with the virus is now in place. Next step is a whole of economy reopening.
Business leadership should no longer feel like an extreme sport and every business should have the right to reopen. We now need a period of clarity and certainty. Any countenance of a national lockdown being implemented during this post-shock, pre-vaccine, phase is deepening our economic and psychological scarring. Another blanket lockdown, or indeed the fear of it, should not be given credence.
Yesterday, I met with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin to discuss the principles of structured engagement to ensure public advice is sensitive to business realities. I received agreement that this Government is willing to engage with business on this and that there will be a strong appreciation of lead times for business reaction and continuity. The critical next step of the reopening of the full economy is expected mid-September and detail in codifying how we anticipate to react to the waves of the virus for different locations and scenarios is promised. The resumption of greater office openings and return of international business travel routes are mission critical if we are to maintain our ecosystems and organisation cultures. Coherence of testing protocols is required, along with fast results and being ready now with a plan to procure and roll out mass inoculation of the hoped-for vaccine.
We also raised the challenges around changes in the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the trigger points on redundancy measures. The upcoming Budget will need to create the right incentives for recovery and particularly to provide the right incentive for next generation investment opportunities, such as with 5G communications. Government must play a strong role in communicating the benefits of investment and ensuring that planning and fake information are not obstacles for communities to achieve the resulting benefits.
I believe business now has a role to play in pushing back on an emerging narrative of more dark months ahead. This is not a predestined outcome and we can see from economic data on production, consumption, household savings and public finances that the necessary resources are available to avoid a deep downturn. The fear of fear itself is what business leadership must now dispel and avoid a keeping down with the Joneses mentality.