The latest Director Sentiment Index (DSI) has revealed a jump in director sentiment, despite the on-going economic uncertainty triggered by COVID-19.

    More than 1,700 directors were surveyed for the DSI (compiled by Ipsos) in September, and while sentiment remains in pessimistic territory, it has climbed 22.4 points since the last survey in March to minus 37.2, even with ongoing restrictions and the historic debt and deficit announced by the Treasurer earlier this month.

    AICD Managing Director and CEO Angus Armour said, “The challenges related to the pandemic will continue for some time, so it is encouraging to see that despite continued pessimism directors are seeing an improved outlook in some areas.

    “The Government’s welcome decision to extend key relief measures has no doubt played a part in easing anxiety. This includes the JobKeeper scheme, changes to continuous disclosure rules and allowing virtual AGMs.”

    “Earlier this year directors overwhelmingly favoured a radical policy reset to guide the recovery phase. This survey reveals that directors want a smarter, more innovative Australia that invests in infrastructure and a shift towards green energy,” Mr Armour said.

    Directors have once again nominated climate change and energy policy as the policy priorities the Federal Government should address in both the short and long-term.

    “The results serve as a reminder that notwithstanding the challenges of COVID-19, Australia still needs to address the political impasse that is climate and energy policy,” Mr Armour said.

    Notably, the percentage of directors nominating Engagement with Asia as a priority for the Federal Government has increased significantly since the first half of this year.

    China is the only major economic region where sentiment for the health of the economy over the next 12 months is in positive territory.

    Other key findings include:

    • The impact of COVID-19 remains the top issue “keeping directors awake at night” but dropped from 68% to 41% of responses.
    • Directors perceive personal income tax and state-based taxes to be the top two priorities for tax reform and a majority of respondents indicated that they thought the level of personal taxation was too high. (Note: survey conducted before 20/21 Federal Budget).
    • Western Australia was the only state or territory to register a net positive assessment of the state economy over the next 12 months. Only 19% of WA directors expect weak economic conditions in the state over the next year.
    • A majority of DSI respondents still believe government spending on infrastructure is too low.
    • 80% of directors expect a rise in the level of mergers and acquisitions over the coming year.
    • Oversight of culture remains a focus with 86% of directors trying to affect some culture change in their organisation.

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