Enduring reform crucial for small and medium businesses

National Australia Bank today released new research which showed action is required from large businesses and governments to support Australian small and medium businesses recover and grow once the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is over.

NAB CEO, Ross McEwan, said as the economy started a cautious recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would be critical.

“Long before the impact of COVID-19, SMEs were already facing tough business conditions in Australia.” Mr McEwan said.

“For some time, the sector has faced challenges which are likely to continue post-COVID-19 including hiring new staff, limits to supply chain opportunities and regulatory red tape.

“SMEs currently drive half of our country’s economic output, but with two out of every three working Australians employed by these businesses, they make up a much larger part of our society.

“While these businesses have received much needed support during the COVID-19 pandemic they will also need long-term reform if they are to thrive and power Australia’s economic recovery and beyond.”

Supporting Economic Recovery: What we can do for Small Business; a research report prepared by AlphaBeta for NAB, identifies the eight key areas of reform:

  • Making it easier to hire new workers – cutting red tape and providing support could make it easier for small business to hire workers.
  • Cutting regulation- further focus on reducing regulation will give SMEs back time to work on their business rather than in the business.
  • Making sure small businesses get paid faster – speeding up cash flow to small business can support small business growth.
  • Harnessing the power of digital tools- SMEs need to be equipped with the incentives and support to adopt digital tools.
  • Opening procurement opportunities- small businesses can find it difficult to access government and corporate procurement opportunities.
  • Further access to capital – small businesses needs greater access to a more diverse range of finance options.
  • Lifting small business management capability- SMEs should be supported to enhance their management skills.
  • Improving state business conditions – There is an opportunity via National Cabinet to streamline differences across states that result in business red tape and add unnecessary cost.

Throughout COVID-19, governments and the private sector have worked side-by-side to support businesses and protect jobs.

“NAB has been working closely with governments and the banking sector more broadly to support our customers to the other side of this crisis. This is the exact approach we want to take as we build a bridge from economic recovery to resilience – and that means addressing some of the fundamental challenges that SMEs have faced for some time,” he said.

“This report is not just about actions for government – it is incumbent upon all of us to work together. Our aim with today’s report is to make a significant contribution to the discussion on driving long-term reform in areas we know will have a lasting impact.

“It won’t be just one big initiative that will level the playing field for SMEs. It will take a series of changes across industries and governments to best support Australia’s economic recovery.”

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