New social policies required in this new normal’
The unemployment benefit issued by the Government is timely and appropriate social protection. It is an adequate policy response for short-term relief to the thousands who find themselves unemployed.
The total social and economic impact of Covid-19 is unknown, but when we emerge from this pandemic, Bermuda and the rest of the world will have to grapple with a new normal, which will require critical and decisive policy responses.
While the public health threat rips through our society and cripples our economy, social policy considerations are being discoursed to ensure there are social safety nets in place that provide protection to the most vulnerable in our society.
The Government, with the help of the private and third sector, has the capability to protect the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
This pandemic has exposed the fragility of our economy. The efforts to contain the spread of the virus have made it extremely difficult to contain economic losses. The employment spectrum has been reconstructed as a result of workers slipping from private-sector employment to unemployment.
At this point, public-sector employment remains stable, but uncertainty lingers as government revenues abate and support spending has increased, creating a great amount of fiscal stress.
The short-term unemployment benefits will have to be replaced with the proper social investment that not only provides support, but empowers individuals.
The social-policy responses will have to address how we assist those in our informal sector. Further consideration will have to be given to what labour-policy considerations can be implemented to support employment growth and entrepreneurship. Without suitable interventions, low-income families will suffer and endure further hardship.
Our historic problem of unaffordable housing and healthcare is exacerbating the challenges we face; reform is even more necessary. As an individual’s savings are depleted, the high cost of living will squeeze families into poverty.
The Government will be required to develop a robust economic and social strategy that aims to carve a path into our new reality. As we are all in this together, we need the input of the community.
I would invite the public to share your input on the Bermuda Citizens Forum so we can collectively shape the policies of the future. Rebuilding a resilient economy will be difficult, but together we can navigate these uncharted waters.
• Jason Hayward is a government backbencher and the MP for Pembroke Central (Constituency 17)
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