Phase 4: Thousands of small businesses face collapse, warns union

Phase 4: Thousands of small businesses face collapse, warns union
Credit: Hatim Kaghat/Belga

Thousands of small business owners and freelancers face bankruptcy or closure as a result of the measures announced yesterday by the Consultative Committee, according to UCM, the organisation that represents small businesses.

Entire sections of the economy will collapse,” UCM said, whereas other options were available.

Unlike in March, there was no inevitability. Now entrepreneurs who have followed all the rules pay for the inability of the public authorities to develop, in seven months, correct testing and tracing, and to convince the whole population to enforce the health precautions.”

The Consultative Committee, like the National Security Council that dealt with restrictions under the previous administration, is made up of representatives of the various Belgian governments – federal, regional and community. It is chaired by the prime minister.

The new measures hit the hospitality sector hardest, with the closure of bars and restaurants for four weeks.

The new period of closure imposed on the hospitality industry condemns a sector, but the consequences will go far beyond,” UCM says in a press release.

Combined with the generalisation of teleworking, this measure turns city centres into a desert and empties the shops. A pall of lead falls on society and creates a climate of anxiety, which is doing to death the events and culture sectors, and discouraging all consumption and investment spending.”

Furthermore, the organisation says, the justification for such a measure is not clear, when schools remain open and 40 guests can still gather at a funeral.

If there were such a thing as a precise list of places of risk, UCM is convinced that neither restaurants nor the workplace in small businesses would be pointed out as places of high transmission of the virus. All precautionary measures have been taken, including keeping a register with customer contact details, which has never been used.”

In conclusion, the UCM calls for existing compensatory measures to be maintained, including deferrals of tax and VAT payments, unemployment provision, compensation for closures and so on.

Above all, and finally, a proactive and coherent health policy, with reliable indicators, which identifies and breaks the chains of transmission of the virus, protects the weakest and prosecutes irresponsible behaviour.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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