An upside to Covid-19
EDITOR: The Coronavirus pandemic has had, and continues to have, a devastating effect on the global economy.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, for several reasons, we have done better than many other countries in buttressing the impact of this invisible terrorist. Clearly though, we have not been spared. We see the economic impact , through closed hotels and guest houses, reduced remittances, reduced exports and so on.
The Government has declared that it has experienced a marked drop in tax collections. Our unemployment numbers have grown. Most of our cruise ship workers have returned home and their income has hit the pause button.
Despite the intent of the parliament-approved stimulus package, public service programmes will simply not be enough to adequately take care of all our citizens, even with the commitment to reach out to our most vulnerable. We now must live within our means and take guidance from the published protocols.
However, all is not lost. While we still cannot say with certainty when this unfortunate situation will pass, there are some positives that we can work on – preferably together.
Since the 1970s, we have not done as much as we could to cement an import-substitution economic policy. Covid has given us pause, and cause, to think more about consuming what we produce. This is good. We have suffered much in terms of visitor arrivals. But, we have also saved a few million in airfares and overseas accommodation, shopping, etc. The latter does not outweigh the former, but it is good to see more Vincentians going to the Grenadines, and to places within our homelands, for leisure. We too can “Do The 32”.
The Pryme programme is but one channel through which we can build national asset value. Invest SVG has plans to focus more on working with the established private sector and entrepreneurs in building local production of goods and services. While we encourage sensible and beneficial Foreign Direct Investment, we now recognize even more that we must focus more on what we have and on what we want – both supply and demand matter.
Covid is helping to fuel a process that we can institutionalise. With the drought behind us, and nature encouraging us to eat what we grow, we must seize the opportunity to continue the advance. It is not just about agriculture and tourism; technology is offering us a chance to build on our creative talents and to aspire to be world-class.
We will always need to import both primary and finished goods. Covid has reminded us that, we cannot always rely on products produced elsewhere. We must also look out for the home-grown.
Joel A. Providence