Challenges- The Chambers of Commerce and Industry are on the front line to support business leaders in difficulty during this coronavirus crisis. How have you redeployed your action since the start of the epidemic?
Pierre Goguet – On March 17, we received a mission letter from Bruno Le Maire who entrusted the CCIs with the role of first-rate interlocutors for business leaders in the face of the crisis. Our job today is to promote economic continuity as much as possible, even in degraded mode, by limiting breakage. We have thus reactivated the process put in place during the yellow vests crisis in certain areas by generalizing it to the whole territory. 2,000 employees from our network of 120 rooms are mobilized to answer calls from independents in difficulty. In three weeks, we have received more than 125,000 calls, or more than 40,000 per week! Between the listening line and our dematerialized services, we manage to manage 85% of incoming requests remotely. We are also now working on canvassing companies that may not have contacted us to take stock of their situation.
What are the first returns from the field?
At the beginning, the business leaders called us above all to find out about the aid measures announced by the government, short-time working or the solidarity fund. Now, many freelancers, micro-entrepreneurs, small traders and craftsmen contact us because they realize that they are not eligible for this aid. However, it is they who very often find themselves in the greatest precariousness. This plunges them into great distress, some wondering how they will feed their families. For those, we almost provide psychological support.
© All Rights ReservedThese entrepreneurs left out of government bailout
The government emergency plan was however thought to support these small entrepreneurs in difficulty…
A lot has been done and, to participate in various crisis cells and government task forces on the issue, I can tell you that he is aware of the seriousness of the situation. Moreover, it adjusts its action as and when it comes to our comments and alerts. Afterwards, there is often a time lag between announcements and implementation. The most striking is undoubtedly that observed on partial activity. Even if things are better today, companies are still having trouble registering online and obtaining a receipt from the administration, which is necessary to be supported by their banks in their cash flow.
There is also an urgent need to improve the solidarity fund. Unfortunately, there are many holes in the racket with this device which does not take into account the diversity of the profiles of our companies. The aid of 1,500 euros granted to a company can, for example, constitute a precious boost for its manager, much less when the company is managed by two or three partners. Newly created companies are also de facto excluded from the system because they cannot justify a loss of turnover, just like several SAS president who do not fit the criteria.
Nothing was also planned for the companies in continuity plan which were getting out of business. We asked for a one-year postponement of their timelines that could help them get their heads out of the water, provided the bankers play the game.
What are the most glaring issues facing entrepreneurs today?
According to our internal feedback, a third of the managers with whom we are in contact are worried about having to close their business within the next six months. Among the companies that remained open, many are now considering closing the store during the crisis because they are faced with problems of supply, cash flow or even a drop in activity, as is the case in tourism, sector completely shutdown, the building and public works sector with 80% of the sites stopped, or even in aeronautics which supports thousands of subcontractors in the Toulouse region.
Then, there are all those who were on the verge of selling their company and find themselves without a buyer, those who depended exclusively on export and no longer have orders, or those who have to manage an inventory that they do not will not be able to flow, especially in clothing. All sectors are not doing so bad of course, but overall, the situation suggests serious difficulties for the future.
Exactly, how do you see the way out of the crisis?
I help great fears. At the end of the confinement, we will find a weakened, convalescent economic fabric. So yes, companies will be able to spread certain social and tax charges over time, but they will have to pay them one day. This is one more schedule which will be added for some to that already in place at the end of the yellow vests crisis. We are building a debt wall for our businesses that many will be unable to repay. I wonder if it will not be necessary to exempt them from certain claims. The public authorities have already put several billion on the table, but at the exit, it will have to accompany the recovery with a recovery plan which will undoubtedly be spread over several years. Unfortunately, I fear that the will of the government and the President of the Republic, who said a few weeks ago that “no business will be left at risk of bankruptcy “is only wishful thinking.