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Business leaders must do everything possible to keep the economy goingMay 28, 2020
I joined the nation in clapping for NHS staff on Thursday night. No amount of gratitude is too much for those who are in the front line of caring for us all, working long and anti-social hours and having to make life and death choices. It was a wonderful demonstration of the whole community coming together in difficult times. But let us also give a metaphorical clap too to all those businesses and the self-employed who, while complying with the requisite two metre rule, have stayed open to keep the lights of the economy on and to maintain vital aspects of life for the fortunate 99 per cent of households who are not expected to end up hospitalised by this new virus.
In an age where as many as two thirds of people do not know the name of their neighbour, we forget at our peril that the window cleaner or the gardener who visits weekly to cut the grass are often serving as invisible social workers, the first to notice when they don’t get the usual cheery wave. And just as for the whole economy, the NHS “chain” is only as strong as its weakest link – whether that is the security guard on reception, the catering company serving its canteen, the van driver delivering supplies or the electricity company providing energy.
Indeed, in an era of complex, interconnected supply chains, the roles of warehouse staff, the postmen and women, farmers, garage mechanics, take-away owners, telecoms engineers, bank loan processors and all those working in supermarkets, factories and food processing companies are equally vital.
Far from such firms being shamed for remaining open as some on the Left have chosen to advocate, they too deserve our thanks and applause for their work helping during this national emergency.
Some large firms may have already over-reacted and actually undermined the national effort at this time. The drive-through McDonald’s in my constituency was one of few such facilities in rural West Sussex, full of blue-light workers day and night who were grateful for a freshly made coffee, a clean WC and a hot bite to eat on the way to or from their shift.
Where are all those essential workers supposed to go now? The economy – not to mention our children’s generation – will thank business leaders for not over-reacting. Export markets founded on historical ties and trading patterns once lost may never return again. Those Asian economies that never shut down to the extent that we already have are awakening and more than happy to plug the gaps left when the phone at a UK supplier sits ringing unanswered.
The unprecedented measures – and level of expenditure – that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has now put in place are the most comprehensive anywhere in the world. With this sort of support, business and the self-employed now have greater certainty and a valuable safety net. In return, let’s maintain cool heads and keep the economy open for business.
Andrew Griffith is the former Chief Operating Officer & CFO of Sky, was the Prime Minister’s Chief Business Adviser until December 2019 and is Conservative MP for Arundel & South Downs
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