I am sure it will not be surprising for you to read that very few in the business community were sad to see the end of 2020.
For most, last year was one of persistent challenge - of closures, layoffs and uncertainty.
While many businesses may have weathered 2020, few have returned to their previous levels of revenue, employment, or growth. Faced with a drop in income, many businesses deferred paying expenses or rents, or paid them through loans or on credit, meaning some big bills will be coming due later this year.
And with most government support programs either already concluding or with end dates in the first half of the year, there will be little underpinning the business community.
Surviving another year like 2020 will simply not be in the cards for some. They may have scraped through once, but businesses can’t just keep going on as it is.
What our business community and our local economy needs in 2021 is a return to normal, and a revival of consumer confidence and the spending that goes with that.
A slow, limping recovery will unfortunately not be substantial enough or swift enough to save our small businesses. And the only way we will see this kind of robust return to normalcy in Burnaby this year is through an effective and efficient vaccination effort.
Science has given us an unprecedented opportunity to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us with a number of vaccines developed in record speed. We must now work to ensure we actually distribute and administer the vaccine with the same levels of urgency and focus.
Vaccine roll-out must be the top priority of all governments. We have seen governments work with unparalleled coordination and haste during this pandemic, and we cannot afford to let up on that now that we have the solution in our grasp.
We need an aggressive vaccination schedule and governments should put up whatever regulatory, personnel, financial or other resources are required to make it happen.
Coupled with this must be a clear and consistent message of confidence in the vaccines from public health officials, government, and the scientific community. Organizations, institutions and private citizens can also help by echoing and amplifying this message to their own networks. We simply cannot afford to let confusion, fear or conspiracy undermine public acceptance and adoption of the vaccine.
Even with such a concerted effort there will still need to be continued supports for those industries and individuals most negatively and persistently impacted by COVID-19 closures and restrictions. And we must continue to embrace and adhere to the public health guidelines that are necessary to prevent unchecked exposure and spread of the virus.
However, our primary focus and driving impetus must now be to stamp out the virus this year, not to simply manage or mitigate its impact. Luckily, we hold the key to this in our hands.
Now it’s time to get it into our arms.
Paul Holden is CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade.