Human life comes first. It’s certainly right and proper to do everything in our power to protect human lives. We’ve accepted working from home (or, at least, those who can have), we’re taking care of our children ourselves, we’re keeping our distance from fellow our citizens, we’ve cancelled our vacations, abandoned sports and cultural events, and many of us are losing income and even livelihoods. Everyone understands how much is being asked of us.
After the first few weeks of lockdown, economic consequences that were previously only estimates are becoming reality. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be dramatic – especially if normal life has to be put on hold for a long time.
Small businesses are the backbone of the European economy. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.8 percent of all business in the EU, as well 66.6% of total EU employment, and generate around 56.8% of annual GDP growth. Given this, it’s understandable that national governments across Europe have moved quickly to support small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Support has also come from the European Union, including through the relaxing of EU budgetary and state aid rules. Will all this be enough?
What do our readers think? We had a comment from Cosgrove, who is worried the measures adopted to stop the coronavirus have triggered a major global economic crash.
To get a reaction, we spoke to Marc Tenbieg, Managing Director of the German Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (DMB). The DMB sees itself as a mouthpiece for small and medium-sized businesses and has also been offering information on coronavirus relief measures for those affected. What sort of action does Mr. Tenbieg hope to see so that small and medium-sized companies can get through the pandemic?
That’s a difficult question. First of all, I notice that the coronavirus pandemic has reemphasised the importance of Europe. We no longer hear the populism or nationalism of previous months. The coronavirus crisis may have helped us to focus on our community again. The European response to the virus also allows Europe to grow together, which many citizens have also asked for.
It has often been argued that individuals matter in politics. France and Germany certainly have different styles – President Macron’s speeches have been very different from Chancellor Merkel’s – but, in the end, both have appealed to Europeans to think and act collectively. Europe can now grow our economy together.
However, the European Union should support countries that cannot advance their own economies individually. There is enough money to help. But you also have to be careful that we don’t end up in a new euro crisis. You also have to pay back loans and save. As banal as it sounds now, some European countries have struggled with that in the past.
We have to find a good middle way now: companies have to rely on their savings, but the state has to intervene to prevent unemployment, to support small and medium-sized companies as well as the self-employed. I see a lot of suggestions for this at the moment, but they still have to be implemented without red tape.
How can we get small businesses through the crisis? Will the measures taken by national and European policymakers be sufficient? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!