Thursday, June 13, 2024

Let’s get over COVID-19 hysteria and focus on the economy and jobs

At this point it is patently clear that the restrictions that we have endured since April to fight the coronavirus have come at an enormous cost to our livelihoods. I know that the moment you bring up the economic and social costs of the shutdown, its proponents push back by asking people not to fret because other countries also imposed lockdowns. And while that is indeed true, the fact of the matter is that these countries have also incurred serious costs.   

Just this week Disneyland, the world famous entrainment behemoth, announced that they will be laying off 32 000 workers, thanks to the effect of coronavirus induced restrictions on their business. This, after all, is a business that thrives on thrill seekers congregating at its theme parks.  Here at home, businesses have sent people home without pay but are restrained from outright retrenchments because of the State of   Public Emergency (SoPE) regulations. As a result of the reflexive political shaming and ridicule that businesses attempting to reduce numbers were subjected to, the scale of layoffs when the SoPE is finally lifted, remains an unknown danger. And while we are there, the ease and audacity with which businesses were instructed to toe the line was not in keeping with the tenets of a free society and economy but rogue behavior you associate with Chinese Communist Party dictators, for example.  

So it is time to get over the costly COVID hysteria and acknowledge that the restrictions have killed businesses especially small business and only serve to empower bureaucrats.  These bureaucrats in turn, are unmindful of the fact that we derive our rights and freedoms from God and not man. They must also remember that they work for us and not the other way round. The moment we derive our rights from man would spell danger because that same man can take them away. So the role of the bureaucrats is to safeguard those rights and not bestow them. Nothing more, nothing less.  That being the case, they must not do anything that threatens our freedoms even under the guise of fighting the pandemic. 

The political leaders and their bureaucrats must hunker down to the task of creating a conducive environment for business to recover. In that respect they need to spend less time on TV telling us about sectors that they are either opening or closing. That was never their role in the first place.  The creation of a good business environment for business is going to require a new skill on the part of our civil service: a skill of listening regularly to people who are outside Government Enclave and in the real business of doing business. At this moment very little dialogue if any at all, is happening between the Government and business. This begs the question of how you set the economy on a path to recovery, growth, generation of jobs and prosperity without formal and regular dialogue with the private sector. That state of play is mind-boggling to say the least. 

If the state president interfaced with the private sector more regularly instead of postponing such meetings to some unknown day in the future, he would learn that business expects a few things from his administration to power growth.  Business expects him to lower – and not raise – taxes and vigorously cut red tape.  He would also learn that construction, wholesale, education and manufacturing are the hardest hit sectors.

He would also use the opportunity of dialogue with business to realise that his government is compounding cash flow problems for private enterprises by not paying suppliers on time.  Of course the bureaucrats’ retort would be that the private sector is too dependent on government. That however is to miss the point by miles because this is about goods and services supplied but not paid by the customer. It is a snide response that can only be made by privileged people who have been receiving their pay in   full  throughout the pandemic thanks to the tax payer.  Ultimately this tax payer is going to run out money to pay their pay if the business environment is not taken care of.

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