Stricken by war, Ukraine’s small businesses fear new lockdown


Impoverished and conflict-ridden Slovyansk in japanese Ukraine already was a tricky marketplace for Maryna Novikova’s ceramics workshop to thrive in. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
A months-long lockdown within the spring pushed her small enterprise to the brink of collapse — simply because it was lastly getting off the bottom — forcing her to chop employees and slash salaries as gross sales plummeted.
“It was troublesome each morally and in sensible phrases,” the 59-year-old mentioned, standing in a room heated by a pottery kiln.
Now, ex-Soviet Ukraine — one among Europe’s poorest nations with an ageing public well being system — is struggling a surge in infections that small-business homeowners akin to Novikova worry will result in new restrictions and serve a ultimate blow to their livelihoods.
If a brand new quarantine is imposed, Novikova says she is going to “shut every little thing and never proceed,” noting that she is already providing therapeutic massage companies after work to make ends meet.
With a scarcity of hospital beds and medical employees, Ukraine’s well being minister Maksym Stepanov warned this week that the nation had “handed the purpose of no return”.
Well being officers have already registered greater than 440,000 instances and eight,000 fatalities within the nation of 40 million, however Stepanov warned that “the worst was but to come back.”
– ‘Financial collapse’ –
Regardless of seeing file new virus infections on a virtually every day foundation, Ukraine has but to hitch European nations like France and Germany and observe by on guarantees to introduce a brand new lockdown.
That has supplied some aid to 59-year-old Novikova, who was solely in a position to begin her enterprise in 2018 with the assistance of the United Nations Improvement Programme (UNDP) grant cash.
Her firm in a two-storey constructing within the outskirts of Slovyansk, now with solely 5 employees, produces ornamental handmade vases and collectible figurines that go on sale regionally in addition to in Italy and Romania.
After two years, she made her first revenue of two,000 hryvnias ($70) in February, a meagre month-to-month sum that was decimated because the lockdown set in.
These struggles are acquainted to companies all through the nation hit by the pandemic, which the UNDP mentioned in September was “pushing the nation in direction of its worst recession in a long time – presumably a despair, with horrible penalties for essentially the most susceptible.”
Its report mentioned that 84 % of households have misplaced revenue, 43 % have at the very least one member of the family who has been made redundant and greater than eight % of small and medium-sized enterprises are on the point of chapter.
– ‘Not prepared for second wave’ –
In an effort to melt the blow, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal in September mentioned the federal government was growing enterprise help applications “to permit the resumption of financial progress”.
However the initiative has not reassured small enterprise homeowners as the federal government eyes new restrictions.
Maryna Polovina labored as a culinary assistant in Poland after which as a pastry chef in western Ukraine earlier than opening her personal place in February — simply earlier than the lockdown — in Kramatorsk a number of kilometres from Slovyansk.
She and her husband had been shocked when greater than 200 guests flooded their vegetarian restaurant, which was one thing of a novelty within the area, on opening day.
Struggling to fulfill excessive demand whereas sustaining their very own excessive requirements, 40-year-old Polovina admitted she was relieved when quarantine started.
However then their revenue fell by half, forcing her to chop wages for 3 cooks and two bartenders.
Polovina mentioned a supply system they launched early within the lockdown helped the enterprise keep afloat, however warned it could not stave off the monetary shock of one other quarantine.
“We aren’t prepared for the second attainable lockdown,” she instructed AFP.
“Workers need raises, however we will’t pay as a result of there aren’t sufficient purchasers”.