We need to keep people employed
History repeats itself and the gory tragedies, which as tales and legends of the past, come back to truly haunt unsuspecting generations.
A little more than a century ago, I lost a few of my ancestors to yellow fever, which was followed a little later with scarlet fever.
I do recall one of my older relatives telling me of how, as a child, he had to live near Dockyard in quarantine with his family because of scarlet fever.
He spoke of the shame and stigmatisation he had to bear when the epidemic was over. Hopefully, we are a bit more civil today and understand this not as a mysterious curse visited upon some by a death angel.
The civilisations of the Americas, North and South, were largely conquered by germs. More Native Americans died from viruses brought by the invaders than from the bullets they fired. The Native American population was, up until then, a remote populace far removed from Europe and simply had not developed the immunity from the viruses developed in Europe.
The African population, having a more coniferous diet, had as a result an immunity that was endemic. Today, notwithstanding the level of technology and scientific sophistication, now 400 years later, a virus originating in China, again diet-based, is in essence a repeat saga.
It is a scary reality when an invisible agent can reek as much damage on an economy as would a destructive war with armaments. It is already a calculated fact that China will emerge stronger from this pandemic than will America and Europe, whose fates are as yet unknown.
All the magnificent buildings and architecture that had high utility, facilitating restaurants, cafés, theatres, even churches, all abandoned to social-distancing.
There could be no better weapon to develop than one that destroys the economy, while leaving the buildings fully intact. This is juicy for the conspiracist, who will say this was a deliberate ploy and a manufactured virus used as bacteria war.
No matter how it originated, it is with us now and we must deal with its aggressive nature as aggressively as it will confront us. For islands such as Bermuda that are dependent on tourism and travel, and whose financial service industry has travel as a component, serious decline is a strong likelihood.
The kind of decline not seen since the Second World War — and to add insult, it will be as protracted and likely at its peak impact to be with us for a couple of years.
There is no need to panic, but there is definite cause to act. Let’s get real; we have a national budget somewhere around $1 billion. In the best of times, our new normal leads to a deficit. Now with hotel closures, cruise visitor suspension and air traffic constrained, that deficit will balloon to levels we have never seen.
Here is another observation: do we know that cost and how do we cover it? No problem borrowing, but how much will we truly need? If borrowing is the only answer, then we may face a bottomless pit.
With times like these, we have to face the economic challenge like a “Marshall Plan”. It is fine to face the social problems generated by Covid-19 because we cannot drop the ball on items such as education or social welfare. However, all these things cost. Therefore, the economy is quintessential to social sustenance.
The economy is as important to the subject of virus, as is the issue of prevention and care. Without a functioning economy, the country will sink into social chaos very quickly, which would become an additionally overwhelming problem.
Twenty to 30 per cent unemployment is a recipe for social meltdown. Bermuda has never experienced a real and complete social breakdown; it has seen rises in criminal violence such as gang activity, which has truly alarmed the community. A meltdown will put that scenario on steroids. We need to keep people employed.
This is a time when every idea that has the remote possibility of succeeding needs to be processed and either eliminated or advanced quickly. We need to prepare for the worst-case scenario while we pray and take caution to be spared.
This virus’s hold and strain on the human population will eventually end because there will be a cure and populations will be inoculated. Life will bounce back with a roar. The prudent thing for any jurisdiction is to build out to that day when business returns.
The good thing about building construction is the work population can be easily controlled for virus detection and they provide steady income that translates into local liquidity. Building construction also gives local labour high-paying jobs, particularly at the blue-collar level.
I like the ideas contained in Husayn Symonds opinion published last Wednesday. We need those thoughts and others like his huddled together in a team discussion. Here is where BermudaFirst, along with a Covid-19 response team, would be useful.
This is not a political matter; it is a national survival issue that transcends politics or who is in charge. We need a scientific and militaristic approach, with business leaders included to map out a comprehensive response to all aspects of the effects from the virus threat.
We are back to history and we can either emerge from this virus threat as a strong unit ready to take our place in a new world order, or we will end up as a victim nation in need of care.
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