Disruptions from the Second COVID-19 Lockdown Affect the Business Environment, and the Future Outlook Remains Downcast

The Business Climate Index (BCI) remained below potential for the sixth consecutive quarter since the 2020 first quarter (January-March 2020). Nonetheless, business perceptions in the current quarter (April-June 2021) improved slightly by 5 basis points from 51 in the previous quarter (January-March 2021) to 56 in the current quarter (April-June 2021). The below-potential performance in business sentiments was primarily driven by the unfavourable business environment, low product prices and business activity during the second lockdown. In particular, the new adjustments in curfew hours, the ban on weekly markets and transport restrictions disrupted the business operations in the current quarter. Meanwhile, business perceptions in the agriculture sector subdued more compared to manufacturing and service sectors. This was on a back drop of a less favourable business environment, lower product prices, turnover, profit, and reduced capacity utilisation. Perceptions about business sentiments in the next quarter (July–September 2021) are pessimistic because of the anticipated decline in business activity, turnover, labour availability and inability to expand and/or start-up new businesses.