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Civic leaders call for businesse' bail out

CHAKALISA DUBE
Civic leaders call for businesse' bail out
FRANCISTOWN: Francistown councillors are deeply concerned by the rate at which some businesses have been closing in the city owing to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tuesday this week, Ntshe ward councillor Eric Mabengano said the continuous closure of some businesses might be a strong indication that the current government’s measures meant to help businesses navigate challenges brought by COVID-19 are not enough or effective.

Responding to the Mayor’s speech at an ordinary full council, Mabengano said that some of the firms in the city also continue to retrench workers despite the fact that this is not allowed under the State of Emergency.

“The government has in recent months announced various COVID-19 relief and rescue packages for businesses. However, businesses still continue to close and retrench.

“This might be an indication that some firms are still facing severe difficulties owing to the pandemic. “I therefore, call on the government to engage Francistown businesses and come up with suitable strategies to assist them.”

Mabengano added that the government should consider reintroducing the wage subsidy.

“Some of the firms have expressed the desire to see the wage subsidy reintroduced until such a time that they have fully recovered from the effects of COVID-19,” the councillor said.

“They believe it was halted too soon.”

The three-month wage subsidy, which was availed to most

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business sectors in the country, expired in June but was later solely extended to tour operators in areas around Maun and Kasane. Monarch North ward councillor, Gopolang Almando said some companies in the city have indicated that they will close towards the end of the year in a bid to avoid getting locked into long-term financial commitments such as paying salaries and servicing loans while they are not certain if they will return to profitability any time soon.

“The government should come up with strong interventions and flexible strategies to assist struggling Francistown companies,” Almando said. “Already the Francistown economy is ailing and we cannot afford to see a situation where more companies will close because they are struggling to stabilise.”

Several empty commercial spaces particularly in the CBD and the light industrial area tell a story of a city that has been adversely affected economically by COVID-19. Government recently unveiled a P1.3 billion Industry Support Facility aimed at providing low or zero-interest loans to various business sectors. Critics, however, say the funds are too little to make a significant impact on the struggling local enterprises.



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