28 Oct 2020

SMEs need grants rather than government loans - Kiwibank boss

4:01 pm on 28 October 2020

The government should be looking at direct grants to businesses affected by the pandemic rather than lending schemes, the head of Kiwibank says.

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Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich. Photo: Kiwibank

Steve Jurkovich has told a trans-Tasman business seminar the initial government and Reserve Bank response to Covid-19 was necessarily strong and welcome.

He said there had only been a tepid response to the government-backed low interest business loans available through retail banks, because the application process and conditions have been too complicated.

"I would dearly love to see a more direct stimulus to small businesses... one of the things we seem to have struggled to do was direct stimulus through grants to get these business up and running, so I'm hopeful we'll see more along those lines."

He said most of the assistance to business had been through loans, which businesses did not want to take part in.

"There's nothing surer if a customer lacks confidence they don't want to borrow, and I think confidence is the rarest commodity at the moment."

Jurkovich said economic recovery would come through small businesses hiring and investing, as well as helping those who had lost jobs.

"I think we in New Zealand are going to have a much larger, big government and I think that's necessary because the stimulus and the way things need to be supported has changed dramatically."

However, he said recovery was likely to be uneven, such as tourism where local-oriented operations would do better than those dependent on overseas tourists, and high end, high charging establishments struggling because locals were not willing to spend so much.

Jurkovich said big businesses could help small businesses by paying their bills on time, and leading by example such as ensuring supplies pay their staff a living wage.

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