Flat White

Why has only five per cent of the government’s small business support made it through?

3 September 2020

3:00 PM

3 September 2020

3:00 PM

Amid all of the public fanfare created by the billions of dollars in “free money” handed out by the Morrison government since the coronavirus crisis began back in March, behind the scenes all is not well within the Australian economy.

Many businesses and households are doing it tough as one might expect, but when you delve deeper into the fortunes of small business owners, it reveals how truly dire things are for many of the enterprises that are the lifeblood of our economy.

As part of the Morrison government’s economic crisis response plan, it pledged to provide up to $40 billion in government-backed small business loans through the banks.

In reality, just $1.9 billion has been loaned to small businesses through the scheme, with the banks keeping an understandably tight grip on their purse strings.

Yet despite the ongoing failure of the policy to get cash into the hands of business owners who need it and provide the required incentives to take the gamble to keep their doors open, few concrete moves have been taken by the government to address this failure.

Meanwhile, according to the latest data, more than $180 billion in new loans have been provided to businesses since February, with the majority likely flowing to medium and large enterprises that can more easily access credit.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently spoke of continuing to urge the banks to continue “lean in” and ensure a healthy supply of credit for the recovering economy.

But with less than 5% of the government-backed loan scheme’s total funds actually borrowed by businesses, it’s abundantly clear that it’s not happening nearly enough to support small business owners.

In under a month’s time the insolvency protections, rent deferrals and loan deferrals begin to end for businesses. For many, it’s sadly probably already too late for the government’s intervention to help salvage their business.

But for those who still have a fighting chance as September draws to a close, the Morrison government must do better for them. Because ultimately, when all the government stimulus stops flowing, the Morrison government may find there wasn’t much of an economy actually left to save.

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