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‘Light on the horizon’: SME optimism on the up

02:57pm March 09 2021

“You see that there is a light on the horizon,” says Westpac’s Guil Lima. (Josh Wall)

After a busy few weeks visiting customers, Guil Lima is feeling more upbeat. 

“I have been out over the last two weeks speaking to several businesses, and it's amazing to see the level of enthusiasm and how consumption has been holding up,” says Lima, the chief executive of Westpac’s business division. 

“Things are looking a lot more positive now.”

In 2021, Australia experienced its first recession in almost 30 years as lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19 restricted economic activity, with services industries particularly hard hit. 

But the economy is roaring back to life faster than expected, data last week showing GDP growth of 3.1 per cent in the four quarter of 2020 as household consumption and business investment surprised on the upside. 

Over the year, the economy contracted 1.1 per cent, which Westpac economists said was among the best outcomes around the world, arguably only exceeded by China and Taiwan. In the wake of the national accounts, Westpac chief economist Bill Evans lifted his growth forecast for 2021 from 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent, expecting the ongoing reopening, vaccines and the boom in the housing market will offset the key headwinds of reduced government support and zero net immigration.

“When I think about 2021, it's looking much more positive,” says Westpac CEO Peter King. “We've got some good economic data coming out, we've got more people back employed, we've got housing prices starting to lift and the vaccine rollout will be important.” 

In Sydney’s north, Boatshed Café and Bar’s Peter Kritsotakis said while the past year has been difficult, trading has been improving over time.  

“Luckily, we had the Boatshed cafe downstairs and we were able to run that through the COVID period as takeaway for the first three months,” he said. 

“And then after that we opened with limited table seating and we kept going very strong.” 

Josh Wall is the Head of Video at Westpac Wire. Prior to joining the team, he spent 10 years as a video journalist and documentary filmmaker, most recently as Head of Video for the Guardian Australia. He also worked across numerous News Corp mastheads in Sydney as a presenter, producer, writer and video journalist. Josh is originally from Perth, Western Australia where he began his career by co-creating a video magazine that focused on music and the arts.

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