COVID-19: An unsustainable regional cost

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Dr Jimmy Fletcher Managing Director, Soloricon

Dear Sir

Saint Lucia and the other countries in the Eastern Caribbean have done a very good job containing the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Through some very tough and timely measures, they have been able to curb the community spread of the disease. We have done what we were told was necessary – we flattened the curve. And for this, the government, the ministry of health, and the population of our country (countries) must be commended.

Unfortunately, this has come at a great cost to our economy. We had to shut down economic activity to get people to remain indoors to prevent the virus from spreading. Many jobs have been lost, hopefully temporarily, and economic challenges have increased.

I am sure that soon our health personnel will advise on a schedule and a protocol for a resumption of business activity in our country. We will not be able to return to our old normal way of life. This virus will remain with us for some time. Until we get an effective treatment regime for those who become infected, such that we can minimize the severity of the disease, and until there is a vaccine that can give us immunity to the virus – we will have to continue to take strict precautions. We will need to protect those with underlying health conditions and our elderly populations from this virus.

So, there will be a new normal. But the same should apply to our approach to socio-economic development. Our economy cannot go from zero to 100 in a few short months. Neither should we return to our old modus operandi, which caused us not to have the ability to weather this crisis better.

No country could have prepared adequately or fully for COVID-19. This crisis was unprecedented and devastating. However, we have been forewarned. We have now seen how fragile and fickle our current economic model is. This should give us reason to pause, reflect, and decide how we can do things better, moving forward.

COVID-19 has brought us to an important point in the development of our country and our region. We are at what is called an inflection point, which, in development terms, is an important point when fundamental changes take place in the progress of a company, an industry, an economy or a country.

How we react to this will determine our future viability and our resilience to any other external shocks that will hit us, be they extreme weather events like hurricanes or droughts, or new devastating diseases.

I will serialize an article I wrote called Our Inflection Point, in which I suggested a few ways in which we can adjust our approach so that we may use this inflection point, this opportunity, to our advantage.

I hope you find the suggestions useful. More importantly, I hope these posts stimulate you to do what we are not very good at in our region – advocate and take action to make things better. We are excellent at analysis and articulation, but really poor at action and advancement. 

Dr Jimmy Fletcher

Managing Director, Soloricon

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