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Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
Nearly half of Australia’s accounting fraternity are worried about the state of the economy over the next three months and are only fractionally less concerned on their six-month view.
Only one-in-five were confident about the outlook.
These were the findings in the first of a series of surveys to be conducted by peak accounting body CPA Australia, which will track business sentiment through the stages of the COVID-19 response plan that was recently agreed by the national cabinet.
“This survey will serve as a canary in the coalmine,” CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter said, noting that accountants are working with businesses every day..
“We expect to see a positive uptick in sentiment as we transition through the national COVID-19 plan. If that doesn’t happen, it may be an early warning sign that businesses and the economy need extra assistance.”
He said accountants in locked down areas are generally more worried about the economy than those in non-lockdown areas, but not by a big margin.
Near 50 per cent of the 200 CPA Australia members surveyed said financial stress inquiries have increased in the past month, and even in non-locked down areas there had been an increase of 38 per cent.
“It’s clear that lockdowns create a lot of referred pain for businesses no matter where they’re located,” Mr Hunter said.
“This highlights the challenges associated with implementing different business support programs on a state by state or territory basis.”
The leading cause of pain for businesses is uncertainty around lockdowns, followed by attracting and retaining the right staff and the speed of the vaccine rollout.
“We’ve grown increasingly frustrated with failures by governments to plan for lockdowns and with red tape holding up the delivery of vital financial support to businesses,” Mr Hunter said.
Nearly three-quarters of accountants were “unclear” or “unaware” of the national COVID-19 plan, which sets out changes in restrictions when the nation gets to 70 per cent and 80 per cent full vaccination rate benchmarks.
“It’s apparent that the government has a communications problem,” he said.