For those who think things are bad now in Jamaica now, in my book, the real tragedy lies ahead when the lack of foreign exchange earnings start to be felt. Naturally, without foreign exchange, imports on which we depend so much, are going to get super-expensive.
So far, it is the poor and small business people who have been bearing the brunt of the severe economic measures put in place to try to keep that terrible virus under control. But soon, they will cause stress on thousands more.
In retrospect, it was bad that Jamaica followed the western world and locked down the economy. I am not blaming the government, for so little was known about the virus in the initial stages, that we did not know where to turn.
Taiwan however took a chance and won. They, with 25 million people, did not lock down but stringently monitored those who were positive and tracked who they came in contact with. By inflicting severe punishments on those who were quarantined, they inconvenienced around 1/4 million of their population for the benefit of the other 24.5 million. And guess what, their economy remained open and robust and only 10 people died! Sweden tried that model but their success was not as outstanding.
Where Jamaica fell down was in locking down the place for too long and being very lax in their enforcement of the rules that cut the spread of the virus. But what’s new? Jamaica’s problem with crime, justice, social issues and everything else for that matter, has always been, that we fall down in the area of enforcement. Look at how we are quick to prosecute the poor and dispossed, but the rich and well-heeled can break all the rules and have all the covid-spreading parties while the authorities look the other way. You notice too how Bolt has been singled out though? Poor fellow, with all his money and world-wide fame, he just can’t make it into the Jamaican uptown circles!
But I am not going there today.
What really perturbs me is the fact of those who had little or no savings are now on the verge of starvation, due to the lockdown, which some would happily resurrect!. And I am sure, as savings vanish, many thousands more may soon join that group. For according to the World Bank, as a result of this virus, remittances around the world will fall by 20% this year.
Already, a recent study conducted by UNICEF and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) found that eight in every 10 households suffered income losses. On average, families lost 46 per cent of income, while lower-income households suffered a 49 per cent loss. This has caused a significant number to have to get by on one , two or no meals per day.
The well-heeled who would keep the country locked down, need to spend a few seconds letting that sink in. Remember too, that more than 130,000 families across the island are already registered with PATH.
Even so, the Capri study found that some 10% did not think they could send their children back to school. How concerning must that be for all of us?
Also, what about the psychological illnesses and possible suicides that will occur from depression and hopelessness?
That is just the tip of our iceberg, for we have yet to see the impact of the fallout in tourism. And incidentally, while some people would like to blame tourists for the increase in Covid cases in the island, that is not at all true. For it has been the yardies (living here and abroad) who have been ignoring the quarantine rules and preventative measures.
With the exuberance from the election, things appear to be going pretty well now, but are we really prepared to face the serious challenges ahead?
I fear not, for according to an article in the Daily Gleaner of September 11, 2020 ; “As Jamaica continues to lose millions of dollars to destinations such as Cancun and Riviera Maya, Mexico, some of the country’s top-producing travel agents have accused the Government of rejecting tourists. The agents, part of the Jamaica Travel Specialist group that boasts more than 8,000 members, vented their frustration on social media Thursday morning, warning that they would not send their clients here until the travel authorisation is done away with. The test is no big deal, so the authorisation process is what the determining factor is here. I can’t support a tourism industry that is doing everything they can to delay tourism. It’s pretty clear they are not wanting tourists,” Hannah Cote wrote online on Thursday morning.
Since August, two months after the island reopened its doors for tourism, complaints have not ceased. People who book both flights and accommodation have expressed difficulties getting landing approval here. Families have been separated as the system rejects some members and accepts others.”
Can the country and those on the fringes really endure such a lackadasical approach to the economic well-being of the country much longer?