Chairman's Message _ Monday, 27 April 2020

Dear Britcham Members & friends,

 

For many of us we are closing out the second month of adjusted working protocols with most office staff working from home. However, for those of us working from home it is also important to recognize that many companies have successfully maintained their essential front-line manufacturing, supply chain and facilities management operations under very trying conditions.

 

Across the World the narratives from many Governments have shifted in the last month. Increasingly they are cautioning against a relaxation of the various control measures that have been implemented. In the UK, politicians have begun to speculate that some measures could remain in place until the end of the year and beyond.

 

Similarly, business executives are having to quickly adjust long term planning scenarios to take account of the likely changes in business practices with one natural consequence being that businesses will either restrict or prohibit employees from attending business functions.  This will inevitably impact the way that business Chambers operate and in that regard obviously BRITCHAM will continue to migrate many of our events to a digital format. As with COVID 19, digital formats are not restricted by physical boundaries and as such I have encouraged the Executive Office team to collaborate much more with Chambers around the Region and beyond to bring a greater variety of quality content to our members and at the same time offer our members opportunities to engage with membership across other Chambers.

 

At the UK end, last week British Chambers from around the World were invited to participate in a Webinar with Liz Truss the Secretary of State for International Trade. From that discussion there were a couple of key points related to UK Export Finance that need to be actively followed up by both the Britcham Indonesia Executive Office and the DIT team at the Embassy:

 

- SMEs. The Minister made the point that UKEF should be more widely available to SMEs as well as for smaller transactions whereas previously the emphasis was almost exclusively on larger transactions. I could not agree more as everything that can be done should be done to assist SMEs. The Minister did say that UKEF may have some resource issues associated with processing applications, but I believe that if DIT and the Chambers pool their resources many of these challenges can be overcome and as such I have asked Chris to immediately take this matter up with the DIT team in Indonesia.

 

- Loans.  I have been contacted by an increasing number of UK businesses who are frustrated by the lack of commitment by some UK banks to support the UKEF programme. Some of these companies I have been assisting in Indonesia and alarmingly a theme is emerging whereby their European competitors appear to be getting far better assistance from European banks. I raised this directly with the Minister who asked for specific examples which have been provided directly to her, mostly from the technology and renewable energy sectors. Should any Members be experiencing similar challenges please let us know and we will see if we can assist.

 

Those of us with Indonesian families or friends will have noticed the incredible way many local community groups have mobilized themselves to assist those most impacted by the current situation. It is also incumbent on the Board of Britcham to support some of these efforts and hopefully by the end of this month we will have arranged the delivery of much needed supplies to front line medical units. Similarly, if any members have stories about initiatives undertaken by either their employees or their companies please do share them on or social media channels. Positive news is always good for the soul!    

 

Stay safe and stay healthy.

 

Ainsley Mann