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Business As Unusual – The Winners And Losers Of The Coronavirus Battle

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Few could have anticipated a global pandemic that would turn entire industries upside down in a matter of weeks.Some businesses have been driven to the brink of destruction; others have adapted or even flourished.But even for the companies in that last category, success has come at a price; is the Coronavirus pandemic really a battle with no winners?

These are the questions being asked in the new podcast series ‘Making it Work’. In special episodes just released, host Tom Scallon and co-presenter Kelli Martin speak to a diverse range of entrepreneurs and small businesses owners to find out how they’re coping COVID-19 and what their challenges and experiences are.

Feeling the Impact

AnaOno provides lingerie and support to women who have undergone mastectomies. “We’re an essential business. Patients need us to help recover and to get through their treatment,” says founder Dana Donofree. Conversely, Diana Ganz’s wedding attire business is struggling to make ends meet. “I thought we were somewhat protected – who’d reschedule their wedding? God, was I wrong.”

Others have fared better. Skateboard wheel manufacturer Shark Wheel saw a boom in sales. “Our sales are off the chart,” says founder David Patrick. “Our business is up – triple, quadruple what it would normally be at this time of year.”

That doesn’t guarantee a smooth ride.Startups have to spend constantly to sustain growth, and the owner is often the last one to get paid.Prime meats and fresh food supplier Danny Catulloadds, “It’s unfair to expect any small business to keep that sort of cash or credit ready to go. The government needs to help out so that we can get back on our feet.”

The Relief Lottery

Ah yes, the government. Aid programs have simply failed to deliver. “We applied to the small business disaster relief and paycheck protection programs on the first day. I’ve heard nothing.We’re trying to keep our employees employed but if there’s no sign of this money, it’s going to be very difficult.“Dana agrees. ”It’s frustrating to know that the money’s there, but it’s almost like winning the lottery.”

Danny has actually employ more staff to keep up with demand.“However, I have many friends and colleagues that are struggling financially and closing down. To experience a successful run while friends aren’t is difficult.”

David shares the survivor guilt. “You made it when everybody else didn’t. We’ve got people that are facing losing their homes, their futures. How do you console somebody when they’re like that?”

So is it a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest situation? “No. The ones that are survivors survived. I think the other ones… there were probably five or six different economic things that would have wiped them out.”

Diana agrees. “You have to have a plan. If doomsday comes­– what does it look like for your business, and can you survive it? But A twelve-month scenario is very complex – we also have to assume that our countries of manufacturing are also in trouble.”

Communication and Isolation

Communication has changed during the crisis. “I find myself on Zoom calls every hour and then I’m not getting my work done. I’ve limited what days I will take phone calls and Zooms to make sure that I have the commitment to the business that it needs.”

Diana has seen the positive side ofisolation. “Our team is being much more productive working from home. Things like blogging or social content writing – you cannot get stuff like that done when you’re sitting at a table of five other people.”

Isolation doesn’t work for everyone, however. “It’s just really not fun being here by myself,” says David. His approach has been to turn the situation on its head.“I’m going to focus more on my mental health, with being happy in a Zen mode rather than really enjoying the chaotic mode.”

Community Spirit

David’s biggest adaptation, however, was to his operating model. David realised that his 3D printing technology could help with the shortage of PPE in US hospitals.I had to go buy and set up a lot of hardware – 13 3D printers and all the material.” Aside from the huge setup effort, this community initiative is adding four hours a day to his workload.

Community interactions go in both directions. First-time customers who’d never been to Danny’sseen anonymous donations coming in to buy food for the hard-working crew.“I think this virus has shed a light on how essential a lot of unheralded workers are to our economy, to our normal everyday lives.”

Looking to the Future

One thing that has become patently clear is that resting on your laurels is an even shakier strategy than many had realised. “Either you innovate or you imitate,” says David. “It’s much more risk to be an innovator but if you’re not innovating in your business, you risk catastrophe.”

Danny adds,“We’ve been in business for three generations.We’ve survived through so many different crises and made sure that we have pivoted along the way to change our business model.”

The cold, hard practicalities are also important. “Save your cash,” says Diana.“Talk to every possible vendor you can about deferring payments, hold on to your cash. Plan for paying out 60, 90 days. Don’t be ashamed to do it. Everybody is doing this, and I mean everybody.”

And finally, it’s vitally important to remember that not all of the plans for the future need to be tied to business. “The first thing I’m going to do when this is over is my husband and I are going to take a vacation. I’m going to go off the grid and we’re going to go somewhere and really, really enjoy our life and enjoy ourselves for a few days as soon as we are able.”

Filling a much-needed gap, ‘Making It Work’ is a free global podcast featuring 12 episodes in total providing real case studies from a diversity of business owners on the ground. Their shared experiences and challenges can provide SME’s and entrepreneurs with the insights to steer their business through the uncertainty and perhaps even identify the opportunities. Of particular interest will be the two-part COVID-19 SPECIAL launched in JunePart I – How Are Small Businesses Staying Alive? and Part 2 – How Do You Run a Business During Lockdown?

Most great ideas are, after all, preceded by chaos!

All 12 episodes now available on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify and Stitcher.

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Finance

Albania Has Opportunity to Build a More Sustainable Growth Model

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Albania’s economy, like other countries in the region, is recovering faster than expected after the historic recession created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the contraction of the economy by 4 percent in 2020, GDP growth is projected to reach 7.2 percent in 2021, one of the highest among Western Balkans countries, says the latest edition of the Western Balkans Regular Economic Report, Greening the Recovery.

The strong recovery is supported by consumption, tourism, and construction. Going forward, growth is expected to moderate at 3.8 percent in 2022 and 3.7 percent in 2023.

Albania’s poverty rate is projected to fall below its pre-pandemic level by end-2021. Employment and labor force participation is also recovering, albeit with a lag, and real wages are increasing.

The recovery is contributing to fiscal revenue collection. Macroeconomic policies have supported the recovery, but higher spending has led to a further rise in the debt-to-GDP ratio. Economic uncertainty remains high, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues worldwide.

“The Albanian economy has shown encouraging signs of recovery in 2021,” said Emanuel Salinas, World Bank Country Manager for Albania. “As growth rebounds, Albania has the opportunity to strengthen the sustainability of its economic model and implement reforms that further support sustainable and shared growth, while preserving macroeconomic stability.”

The report shows that the Western Balkans region has improved significantly, with GDP growth now projected to reach 5.9 percent in 2021, after a 3.1 percent contraction in 2020. Growth in the region is projected at 4.1 percent in 2022 and 3.8 percent in 2023.

The poverty rate for the region is projected to resume its pre-pandemic downward trend and fall by around 1 percentage point to 20.3 percent, close to its 2019 level.

The regionwide recovery is due to strength in both domestic and external demand. A sharp rebound in domestic consumption and in travel across Europe helped boost remittances as well as tourism inflows during the 2021 peak summer season. A strong recovery in advanced economies also provided a boost to demand for the region’s exports.

However, the recovery remains fragile. Early warning signals from the labor market call for close policy attention. Job losses from the recession and its aftermath have disproportionately affected women and youth, which may set back efforts to raise the region’s perennially low rates of labor force participation. Youth unemployment in the region rose to 37.7 percent in 2021, up 5.4 percentage points from June 2020, further worsening youth employment prospects.

“As the Western Balkans countries look to a post-pandemic future, their policy approach will need to focus on addressing key impediments to job creation and economic transformation, including green transition,” said Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Country Director for the Western Balkans. “All six countries would benefit from reforms in the business environment, governance, and digitalization, which would contribute to growth and close the gap with EU countries.”

The report also looks at the macro-fiscal challenges and drivers of greening the region’s growth. The Western Balkans now find themselves at a key decision point regarding the impending green transition.

Global strides toward climate action are causing fundamental changes in society. Consumer and investor preferences are shifting, green technologies and new business models are disrupting more markets, and green policies are reshaping economic landscapes. As such, greening a country’s economy is becoming a decisive factor in international competitiveness and the ability to attract international finance and investments.

The Western Balkans are no exception. Still characterized by a development model tilted toward familiar brown industries, moving toward a green growth pathway is far from easy, especially in the short term. Yet, the green transition offers significant opportunities for the Western Balkans – including closer integration into Euro-centric global value chains and access to significant EU resources to help fund a green transition.

Effectively managing this green transition, including the many policy tradeoffs, will need to be a core focus of policy attention for the Western Balkans in the years ahead.

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Montenegro on Course for Stronger Economic Recovery in 2021

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The Western Balkans region is rebounding from the COVID-19-induced recession of 2020, thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery in 2021, says the latest edition of the Western Balkans Regular Economic Report, Greening the Recovery.

The outlook for the region has improved significantly, with GDP growth now projected to reach 5.9 percent in 2021, after a 3.1 percent contraction in 2020. Growth in the region is projected at 4.1 percent in 2022 and 3.8 percent in 2023.

Driven by a rapid recovery in tourism, Montenegro’s economy is projected to rebound strongly by an estimated 10.8 percent in 2021, the highest rate among the six Western Balkan countries. Strong peak summer season has supported a rebound in tourism revenues, which are likely to reach close to 75 percent of their 2019 levels, from 55 percent previously estimated.

The rebound of economic activity has boosted government revenues, which coupled with careful fiscal management have led to a reduction in fiscal deficit from 11 percent of GDP in 2020 to an estimated 4 percent in 2021. Maintaining fiscal prudence in the medium term will be critical, as uncertainties loom.

“The economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a source of uncertainty, but also presents an opportunity for Montenegro to ensure a resilient, inclusive, and green post-pandemic recovery,” says Christopher Sheldon, World Bank Country Manager for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. “The World Bank is committed to helping Montenegro implement reforms that can help ensure macroeconomic stability, create economic opportunities, and spur strong private-sector led growth”.

The report finds that unemployment in Montenegro remains high as the recovery has not ignited the labor market yet, which limits the pace of resumed poverty reduction. Poverty is projected to decline slowly in 2021, but it remains higher than its 2019 level.

The poverty rate for the region is projected to resume its pre-pandemic downward trend and fall by around 1 percentage point to 20.3 percent, close to its 2019 level.

The regionwide recovery is due to strength in both domestic and external demand. A sharp rebound in domestic consumption and in travel across Europe helped boost remittances as well as tourism inflows during the 2021 peak summer season. A strong recovery in advanced economies also provided a boost to demand for the region’s exports.

However, the recovery remains fragile. Early warning signals from the labor market call for close policy attention. Job losses from the recession and its aftermath have disproportionately affected women and youth, which may set back efforts to raise the region’s perennially low rates of labor force participation. Youth unemployment rose to 37.7 percent in 2021, up 5.4 percentage points from June 2020, further worsening youth employment prospects.

“As the Western Balkans countries look to a post-pandemic future, their policy approach will need to focus on addressing key impediments to job creation and economic transformation, including green transition,” said Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Country Director for the Western Balkans. “All six countries would benefit from reforms in the business environment, governance, and digitalization, which would contribute to growth and close the gap with EU countries.”

The report also looks at the macro-fiscal challenges and drivers of greening the region’s growth. The Western Balkans now find themselves at a key decision point regarding the impending green transition.

Global strides toward climate action are causing fundamental changes in society. Consumer and investor preferences are shifting, green technologies and new business models are disrupting more markets, and green policies are reshaping economic landscapes. As such, greening a country’s economy is becoming a decisive factor in international competitiveness and the ability to attract international finance and investments.

The Western Balkans are no exception. Still characterized by a development model tilted toward familiar brown industries, moving toward a green growth pathway is far from easy, especially in the short term. Yet, the green transition offers significant opportunities for the Western Balkans – including closer integration into Euro-centric global value chains and access to significant EU resources to help fund a green transition.

Effectively managing this green transition, including the many policy tradeoffs, will need to be a core focus of policy attention for the Western Balkans in the years ahead.

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North Macedonia’s Growth Projected Higher, but Economy Still Faces Risks

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macedonia

The Western Balkans region is rebounding from the COVID-19-induced recession of 2020, thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery in 2021, says the latest edition of the Western Balkans Regular Economic Report, Greening the Recovery.

The outlook for the region has improved significantly, with GDP growth now projected to reach 5.9 percent in 2021, after a 3.1 percent contraction in 2020. Growth in the region is projected at 4.1 percent in 2022 and 3.8 percent in 2023.

The poverty rate for the region is projected to resume its pre-pandemic downward trend and fall by around 1 percentage point to 20.3 percent, close to its 2019 level.

The regionwide recovery is due to strength in both domestic and external demand. A sharp rebound in domestic consumption and in travel across Europe helped boost remittances as well as tourism inflows during the 2021 peak summer season. A strong recovery in advanced economies also provided a boost to demand for the region’s exports.

For North Macedonia, this translates into a growth projection of 4.6 percent for 2021, much higher than the forecast in spring. “This positive outlook is still surrounded by downside risks, with the pace of immunization low and supply chains still disrupted, while financial conditions have started tightening,” said Massimiliano Paolucci, World Bank Country Manager for North Macedonia and Kosovo.

However, the recovery remains fragile. Early warning signals from the labor market call for close policy attention. Job losses from the recession and its aftermath have disproportionately affected women and youth, which may set back efforts to raise the region’s perennially low rates of labor force participation. Youth unemployment rose to 37.7 percent in 2021, up 5.4 percentage points from June 2020, further worsening youth employment prospects.

“As the Western Balkans countries look to a post-pandemic future, their policy approach will need to focus on addressing key impediments to job creation and economic transformation, including green transition,” said Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Regional Director for the Western Balkans. “All six countries would benefit from reforms in the business environment, governance, and digitalization, which would contribute to growth and close the gap with EU countries.”

The report also looks at the macro-fiscal challenges and drivers of greening the region’s growth. The Western Balkans now find themselves at a key decision point regarding the impending green transition.

Global strides toward climate action are causing fundamental changes in society. Consumer and investor preferences are shifting, green technologies and new business models are disrupting more markets, and green policies are reshaping economic landscapes. As such, greening a country’s economy is becoming a decisive factor in international competitiveness and the ability to attract international finance and investments.

The Western Balkans are no exception. Still characterized by a development model tilted toward familiar brown industries, moving toward a green growth pathway is far from easy, especially in the short term. Yet, the green transition offers significant opportunities for the Western Balkans – including closer integration into Euro-centric global value chains and access to significant EU resources to help fund a green transition.

Effectively managing this green transition, including the many policy tradeoffs, will need to be a core focus of policy attention for the Western Balkans in the years ahead.

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