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Accountancy Europe - Europe’s economic recovery from COVID- 19

6 Jul 2020 08:00 | Anonymous
On the 30th of June 2020 Accountancy Europe held an online debate with regards to Europe’s economic recovery from COVID-19. The aim of such a debate was to have a look at the EU’s recovery plan to understand the important role that accountants have played and will continue to pay during this crisis in order to help businesses and citizens. The call was chaired by Olivier Boutellis-Taft CEO of Accountancy Europe, over 140 participants attended this call.
Actions the European Commission is taking to fight the crisis - Martin Merlin, DG FISMA, European Commission
The road to recovery is not one that member states can tackle by acting alone, but now more than ever they must act together. The European Commission plans to use the full potential of the EU budget through its ‘Next Generation EU’ scheme where €750 billion together with targeted reinforcements to the long-term EU budget for 2021 – 2027 will be used to bring the total financial firepower of the EU budget to €1.85 trillion. Such funds are to be paid back over the long term, that being not before 2028 and not after 2058. These funds will be used to restore and re-build the market with the main aim to have innovation and investment in the green and digital industries, as such industries hold the key to Europe’s future prosperity and resilience. Though green finance the EU may trigger a recovery that is a green one and will rely on taxonomy to identify what is green and not.
The funds raised for the ‘Next Generation EU’ will be invested in the following three pillars:
1.      Support to Member States with investments and reforms
2.      Kick-starting the EU economy by incentivising private investments
3.      Addressing the lessons of the crisis

The European Commission encourages banks to make use of flexibility whilst accounting and audit professionals should apply IFRS 9 flexibly where possible, to help with a swift economic recovery. The European Commission decided to organise a round table with banks, insurance companies and users of such services to see how they should go about providing relief to consumers and especially SMEs who find themselves in difficulties.
For companies effected by the economic shock to maintain sustainability, they need to have sustainable debt to equity ratios. The European Commission are looking at non-performance securitisation so that banks can manage their capital. They have also issued a consultation document in this respect.  We have a long road ahead to recover, however this is also an opportunity to act together and create a stronger and more sustainable digital Europe.
Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)’s projects and initiatives for recovery from the pandemic - Michael Izza CEO ICAEW
During COVID-19 the accountancy profession became an emergency service for these businesses. Clients where crying down the phone as the businesses they spent a lifetime creating, were disappearing before their eyes. The advice from the ICAEW was firstly to be calm, secondly, they helped members navigate across support packages and job retention schemes. In the UK currently eight million people are having wages paid by the government, therefore there has been support for such persons effected by the crisis.
Once the government enacted the legislation to support businesses and individuals effected by COVID-19, the ICAEW helped to quickly re-produce the legislation in a language that businesspeople could understand more. UK government linked to the ICAEW website and they got more views than ever.
Panel debate of Europe’s economic recovery
This included the following:
  • Ms Rosa Armesto, Deputy Director General, Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE)
  • Ms Burçak Inel Martenczuk, Director of Financing Growth, European Banking Federation (EBF)
  • Ms Véronique Willems, Secretary General, SME united
  • Mr Florin Toma, President, Accountancy Europe
SME’s Recovery from the pandemic
SMEs are innovative and digital born. We need to improve access for all SMEs in general, innovative SMEs must be catered for as these could solve big global problems. The ability of Europe to retain its patents and innovation on European soil is vital for our survival. In the immediate future with the capital markets there will be social coverage bonds, if we can fix problems of securitisation, they can be used to pull SME loans.
As a profession we need to improve our future and the backbone of our economy, this is SMEs. Liquidity recovery and help is needed for those parties who suffered. SMEs are confused and they need help in structuring and being informed with all the measures put in place by the government.
Emergency measures come into place quickly in such times and must continue in the future. We must focus on securing financing in the future, securing equity, and getting citizens to commit and engage. This means having a more strategic approach for SMEs which makes sure regulation is fit for SMEs and how they function.
Bank’s role in fighting the crisis
The best practices of the EBF started before COVID-19 and evolved over the crisis. Before the pandemic the private commercial banks and the EBF had ‘SME feedback principles’ whereby meetings were organised with representatives of SMEs and other companies to see what was happening when an SME was asking for a loan, and what was needed if such an application was refused. This enabled trust and cooperation between the users and members.
The EBF was used to free up the funding capacity, they improved the framework with banks playing a critical role. The EBF coordinated a decision to suspend dividends, this allowed hundreds of billions of euros to be lent in the economy. Private companies did their part by making private moratoriums based on public models, accelerating credit procedures, shifting staff to keep clients and members safe, forgiving rent on housing, making advance payments on pensions and unemployment benefits, providing working capital, and waving fees.
The crisis has shown that we need solvency in the long term and capital to finance. FESE have been focusing resources on making markets work efficiently to allow fulfilment of the economic role and to support the financial stability, thus allowing risk management and provision of liquidity. At times of high uncertainty trading volumes moved to regulated markets, as this provides the stability required. Policy makers should reflect on this as in times of fear transparency is critical.
The role of accountants in recovery
Firstly, SMEs rely on accountants to get them through the crisis, the measures are quite complex, therefore accountants must help SMEs navigate through such measures and with the complicated application process.  Secondly, the accountant’s role is monitoring the balance sheet to make sure companies remain solvent. Thirdly, accountants should encourage the entrepreneur to take step back at the bigger picture and come up with innovative ways, such is restaurants turning to take out places. There could be creative methods of getting through the crisis, digitalisation can speed up the process. By maintain these new working methods accountants can also help companies find new support structures and methods.
Climate change and the way forward
Cooperation must be a way of getting out of the crisis, this must be done in a resilient way so that we can keep on developing on the burning issues such as climate change.
We must practice Environmental, Social, and Governance as a way of measuring sustainability and societal impact of the investment in a company. Eventually we will have a vaccine for the virus but there is no vaccine for climate change.
Climate change will be the defining issue of this decade and the decades ahead. We must now focus on most needed now to move towards a sustainable economy. This means less reliance on carbon; the green deal must be given importance as there is a link between sustainability and COVID-19. There is a lot of money required to make this transition, however it has been proved that in times of urgency the money can be found. As we move from crisis to recovery, we cannot just recreate what there was before but must use these funds to think about how we are investing in digitalisation, housing efficiency, green issues and sustainability. At some point in time business models must transition towards zero carbon, it is better to do this using a planned approach therefore COVID-19 should provide such an opportunity.
All who are involved in business must recognise that if we treat this as a one off, we will not have the reliance to deal with other issues be it natural, health issues, or climate related ones. This should be a wake-up call. We need more interference by government. If governments do not act now there might not be another opportunity. If governments are faced with something existential then they make it work, they should now be prepared to deal with such a big issue such as climate change.
               
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