“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107: 19-21
Our generations have never seen anything like COVID-19. It must be similar in impact to a world war except that everyone, connected by the global network of Planet Earth, is exposed to the virus. No one knows when it will end; let us pray for a speedy escape from distress. The health professionals are not getting much sleep. We should listen to them because it is or our best chance of survival while they save as many lives as possible. Stay at home! When you must venture out wear masks and practise physical distancing, thus contributing to the flattening of the curve and helping to prevent a second wave of infection.
While we are at home, we should start planning the business reconstruction process and gathering those building blocks to get the economy moving after we “regain our freedom” once again. This recovery process will be a formidable task. The whole world has been shut down so it will take months or years for us to return our economy as close as possible to its pre-COVID-19 state. Innovative strategies must be employed, so put your thinking caps on and go into gradual recovery mode.
It will not be business as usual. COVID-19 is a reality check on optimal economic development in the Caribbean. We are back to ground zero and should seek to do things differently. Our most basic human need is food. Each nation should focus internally on food self-sufficiency and to the extent that certain countries may be challenged by a limited water supply or poor-quality land, then we should treat this as a regional objective and optimally rationalize the production of food products. As a result, we bring an element of freshness to the table. We also reduce our dependency on imported food products and save valuable foreign exchange.
International tourism, the economic mainstay of many Caribbean nations, is not going to return to its pre-COVID 19 growth rates by the flick of a switch because of the global disruption of the pandemic. Here is an opportunity for LIAT – The Caribbean Airline to satisfy the pent up demand of millions of Caribbean residents who would like to enjoy the tourism splendour of this diverse multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious, multiculinary, multigenre (musical) and multilingual region officially made up of an archipelago of islands and selected mainland emerging territories. But alas, the air fares are too high. What is needed is for governments to implement the vision carefully articulated by many commentators to remove the government tax components of the airfares, thus significantly reducing them to a level where it is very attractive to travel. Tax the outputs, not the inputs!
Economic recovery will be enhanced when the global network of trading links has been reopened, accompanied by expert shepherding in crisis communications and disaster recovery management.