Trading is returning to a ‘new normal’ as Papua New Guinea’s COVID-19 state of emergency ends. But a recent survey conducted by the Business Council of PNG indicates a return to ‘business as usual’ will take time.
Papua New Guinea’s state of emergency is officially over. Restrictions ended on Tuesday after no new recorded cases of COVID-19 – and business is breathing a sigh of relief.
Prime Minister James Marape announced the end to the state of emergency on 16 June in a speech to Parliament. He said he had listened to the people who were calling for an end to the emergency powers, but assured Papua New Guineans that the Government’s COVID-19 response would continue to protect citizens.
The state of emergency put in place a series of restricted trading hours for businesses and placed curbs on the free movement of citizens between provinces.
‘We had to find a balance – not to extend but have in place the environment that gives us the ability to protect our country,’ Marape said.
In Bougainville, the state of emergency will remain in place until 14 August in line with the announcement by the Autonomous Government of Bougainville.
Businesses will welcome the end of the SOE. A recent survey by the Business Council of Papua New Guinea (BCPNG) showed that 75 per cent of businesses expected a drop in revenue in 2020 and only 66 per cent believed that they could survive at all under the restrictions.
Around 38 per cent of businesses surveyed were expecting to adjust their staffing arrangements due to lower demand, while a majority of respondents (57 per cent) expected a return to ‘business as usual’ would take at least three months and possibly over 12 months.
Douveri Henao, Executive Director of the BCPNG, said that the uncertainty surrounding trading halts and disruptions to people movements and supply chains was the biggest killer.
‘Consistently, our message to government has always been to shift away from the heavy restrictions experienced in April to a more self-regulating format and that’s already evident in the market,’ Henao told Business Advantage PNG. ‘You walk into any major shop or a bank or factory and you see all the hygiene protocols and social distancing at play.
‘We want a clear message that there is no ambiguity in the market, that business is back to normal – subject to those social distancing and hygiene protocol rules.’
National Pandemic Bill
To this end, Henao said that he welcomes the passing of the Government’s National Pandemic Bill, which made its way through Parliament this week. The bill seeks to outline a clear path for dealing with a second outbreak of COVID-19 or any future pandemic, a move that will help take the uncertainty away from the market.
‘This new pandemic legislation brings a degree of stability and certainty that the State of Emergency rules did not provide,’ said Henao. ‘So, from our point of view, this particular legislation is a step in the right direction in terms of having a balanced and predictable framework when a pandemic does occur.’
David Manning, Controller of the State of Emergency and Police Commissioner, also commended the bill saying that, while the State of Emergency was over, the pandemic was still a very real threat. He added that international flights remain closed to passengers and border areas remain shut.
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