Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, CEEP has been actively in contact with its members all across Europe in order to obtain feedback, understand the particular as well as the overall challenges that public services and SGI providers have been facing lately.
Our diversity, on the one hand, gives us the unique ability to have a very broad and complete perspective when it comes to the impact of the current crisis. On the other hand, the essentiality of our services unites us, since the vast majority of our membership is still efficiently providing services, even amidst a continental lockdown. CEEP members are now on the front line, not only in fighting the virus itself – which is notably the case of healthcare providers –, but in keeping our economy running, as they run the few essential activities that are still operating at full-capacity, such as water and energy supplies or waste management.
When it comes to the multiple economic impacts of this pandemic, it is still quite difficult to foresee their magnitude, as well as to predict how long they will last. This uncertainty has been one of the crucial difficulties brought up by CEEP members, since, without a minimally reliable economic outlook, it becomes quite hard for service providers to determine their levels of activity, cash flows, additional costs, as well as the extent of debt increase they will have to incur and eventually have to deal with.
Even amongst this blurry scenario – which is also subject to particular fast-changing conditions – it is possible to identify some of the main bottlenecks for public services’ suppliers that must be timely and efficiently addressed.
Given disruptions in international supply chains, many providers are suffering with shortages of the necessary factors to continue the delivery of their services. Those shortages range from their day-to-day supplies to those that correspond to the new crisis-oriented hygienical requirements. Furthermore, and most importantly, increasing labour shortages are imposing a serious constraint on the supply side.
Crisis-management – from the local to the EU level – must concretely consider those cases of vital public services and SGIs as a priority, not only when it comes to the eventual provision of financial support, but also operationally speaking. Guaranteeing those providers all the fundamental tools to delivery their services is indispensable to overcome this outbreak.
Additionally, demand-driven constraints – which are in close interaction with the supply dynamics – are also a major concern for CEEP members. It is evident that the healthcare system is the one facing the most dramatic demand shifts amongst public services’ providers and they must be given specific assistance. Unfortunately, despite their unequivocal priority, they are not the only ones struggling and requiring tailored support.
Policy makers must address those who are dealing with major demand fluctuations, such as the telecommunication sector (without which every economic activity is highly compromised) that is facing an unprecedented rise in demand, or the transport sector, which is, on the contrary, greatly suffering from a dramatic demand downfall.
CEEP strongly believes that the EU must play a central role when it comes to coordinating economic policy and orchestrating a united approach in order to harmoniously re-stabilize our social market economy and, hopefully, in the near future, restore growth and resilience.