The Coronavirus crisis has no real parallels. We are in new territory on so many levels, and how the Island will emerge at the end of the epidemic is still unclear. It was encouraging to hear that Treasury Minister, Alfred Cannan was exploring ways the government might be able to seek borrowing powers. This must be the sensible course of action to ease the pressure on the Island’s finances, given the record low interest rates available.
There’s no doubt the pressures on local businesses are growing by the day. Some sectors have been able to adapt their working models to get them through the crisis, but for others, such as tourism and hospitality the options are limited.
A recent poll across the British offshore dependencies of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey showed huge concern among employees with around half in fear of losing their livelihoods. Whilst the results of the Island Global Research study aren’t that surprising, they do serve to highlight the stresses the Covid 19 epidemic is placing on our community.
Not unlike the administration in the UK the Manx Government has had to make ongoing adjustments to its financial aid packages. In fairness this should not come as a surprise. We are sailing uncharted waters and it would be naïve to think the huge raft of measures that had to be brought in at very short notice wouldn’t need adjustments along the way.
A recent Chamber of Commerce survey highlighted the need to get aid to businesses as soon as possible. The Chamber said it was clear that many smaller businesses couldn’t wait for weeks of months for the help to arrive.
Cash is king for small businesses who rely on a regular cash flow to survive. The majority have limited or no reserves to fall back on.
Meanwhile the future of Loganair, the only airline currently operating flights to and from the Isle of Man, has been thrown into doubt. The Scottish company has applied to the UK government for a bailout as the drastic cut in services brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, has taken its toll. Staff have already been asked to take a 20 per cent salary cut and slash their working hours by a fifth. Alternatively they have been offered unpaid leave. Loganair provides services from the Island to London Heathrow, Manchester and Liverpool.
These are difficult times, but the Manx Government’s finances are robust enough to see us through. This is one case in which we can all rightly say, we are in this together.