Pacing the reopening of the economy


Pacing the reopening of the economy

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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There are a number of factors which must be taken into account in reviewing the pace of reopening the Jamaican economy.

First, is that the decision to reopen the economy has accepted that we cannot wait on the total elimination of the virus. That means that the Government and the society have accepted that the restoration of some semblance of normal economic life will entail a certain number of deaths. Put bluntly, there is a social and political acceptable mortality rate as the price of running the economy.

Second, the world is not post-pandemic but pandemic-inflicted or pandemic–prone. It has been just over 100 years since the deadliest epidemic in history. The 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak killed an estimated 50 million people.

In recent years there have been outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, swine flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome, Ebola, Zika, yellow fever, and cholera. The World Health Organization (WHO) receives 300 disease warnings, of which 30 warrant more in-depth field investigation to evaluate the potential to become epidemics.

There have been several pandemics, indeed, it appears that they are becoming more frequent consequent on increased global connectivity and interdependence.

Third, the novel coronavirus global pandemic is not over. Nobody can predict how the pandemic will evolve and what will be its duration or recurrence. The WHO has opined that the coronavirus may be permanent.

In some countries and several states of the United States, there appears to be a second wave of the spread of the virus. The virus has mutated and now afflicts the young as well as the elderly and has spread from urban to rural areas.

Fourth, premature reopening of the economy in some places has led to a surge in the number of cases of infection and the number of people needing hospitalisation. This has reached the point where the reopening process has been slowed or paused in several cities and states.

The lesson is that the reopening of the economy has to be carefully controlled to prevent it from backfiring. This is especially the case when the economy is very dependent on external sources.

Fifth, because of the high degree of interdependence the opening of any economy cannot be accomplished in isolation. The pace and extent of reopening the Jamaican economy must take account of what is happening in the global economy.

We note that some European countries are considering not accepting travellers from the countries they believe do not have the virus under control.

Sixth, Jamaica must observe the experience of other countries and learn from it so we do not repeat their mistakes. Of particular importance is to note the indiscipline in the use of beaches and restaurants. Jamaicans have exhibited a high level of indiscipline in this regard.

Fortunately, Jamaica has done very well in handling the novel coronavirus and this is a solid foundation for reopening the economy. We fully support the reopening of the Jamaican economy and understand the strategy for the phased reopening of the tourism sector.

We advise that this process must be continuously recalibrated so as to avoid the possibility of a stop-and start-process. Any reversal would be far too costly and might take a long time to develop momentum.

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