Hope returns to business | Daily News
Sentiment in corporate circles reverses course as

Hope returns to business

With the novel coronavirus persisting for nearly a year, economies the world over are looking for some form of relief courtesy of vaccines that aim to help stem the spread of COVID-19, which has reared its head once again – even in nations that may have thought they’d seen the back of the pandemic.

On the local front, the stock market has witnessed substantial interest from domestic sources and record all-time highs in the indices. And the country ended 2020 with record workers’ remittances too. Indeed, these milestones should be viewed in a positive light by the corporate sector.

Whereas 2020 ended on a low note for the LMD-Nielsen Business Confidence Index (BCI), the results of the latest survey – which was carried out in the first week of January – point to a welcome sense of optimism on the part of corporates as a new year dawned on a nation on edge.

The BCI has turned around remarkably, skyrocketing by 39 basis points from the previous month – and back into the triple digits – to 122 in January, which is a notable 12 notches above the average for the last 12 months, which is a notable 12 notches above the average for the last 12 months. On the other hand, the index is still a considerable distance short of the 174 points registered in January 2020. Nielsen’s Director – Consumer Insights Therica Miyanadeniya attributes this positive momentum to a renewed sense of hope: “The world embraced 2021 with much hope and anticipation of better things to come… While the New Year celebrations were subdued, anticipation of an improved 2021 was evident.

Although it was a year of hardship for many, 2020 will also go down in history as the year when people learnt to adapt, think out of the box and do things differently,” she adds. The three most pressing issues for businesses in Sri Lanka continue to be the impact of

the coronavirus, followed by bribery and corruption, and inflation respectively. Financial instability of businesses and consumers also emerges as a growing concern.

Whereas the spread of the coronavirus remains the most pressing national issue, the level of concern in relation to it has tapered somewhat vis-à-vis the latest survey results alongside apprehension over the economy, and bribery and corruption. And the disruption of children’s education is also deemed to be a concern from a national perspective. As 2021 gets underway and a rebound in business confidence marks its dawn,

Miyanadeniya maintains: “It is hoped that the positive sentiments expressed by business executives and people at large will continue well into the year.”

It is noteworthy too that this edition of the BCI was compiled at a time when there were mixed messages about when Sri Lanka would roll out an immunisation programme. Since then, a some what clearer picture has emerged with the four million vaccines courtesy WHO-Covax likely to reach our shores in a month or so, together with a consignment of the recently approved COVISHIELD (Oxford-AstraZeneca) doses from neighbouring India.

Should we see more light at the end of what’s been a long and dark tunnel, business confidence will surely reach for higher ground. (LMD)