I am bemused, as no doubt are the scientists who were taken by surprise by the coronavirus. For it seems clear now that they overreacted. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy they did, for had they not done so, the death rate would have exceeded the 390,000 it is today. (with the US alone having more than 110,000).The scary thing is though, we really have no idea yet what the economic impact and indeed the death by poverty and malnutrition will be, as a result of economies all over the world, being closed down immediately and for months.
Before this vicious virus struck, over seven hundred million on this planet, lived on less than US$2 per day. Since the shutdown, the World Food Program, (WFP) estimates that some 265 million will directly face starvation and malnutrition-related problems during 2020.
For most people in the first world, such statistics have no impact, as they are just numbers. For me, it is chilling though, since I have spent most of my life in a third world country, where avoiding those on the verge of starvation and deprivation has always been impossible. However, those who treat the figures above as just meaningless statistics will somehow be affected by what is happening to the poor, as this must have an impact on world peace and stability in many countries.
For, consider this, if so many hundreds of thousands of people worldwide were prepared to put their health and even their lives at risk this past weekend, thousands by putting their masks and social distancing away to go on the streets to demonstrate against racism in America, what will people, in general, be prepared to do when facing starvation?
Why am I feeling like such a prophetess of doom today, a role I have never cherished? My more positive position arises from the fact that I feel that the spread of the disease will not be as dire as scientists are predicting, based on close proximity to each other over the last 2 weeks. Being in the outdoors in my book must make a world of a difference, so we can open up and get our economies moving.
No, I am not a scientist so call it a feeling. Yes, I am sure many will get sick and some will even die. But isn’t it God who really determines when any of us must die? Yes, we can take precautions against getting ill, like wearing masks and spending more time outside, but in the final analysis, we have to learn to co-exist with diseases, for the solution can never be to cower under our beds.
I would hate to be a decision-maker in my little island of Jamaica, for you will be condemned if you do and condemned if you don’t. So you may as well do.
Before the pandemic, we had a poverty rate of between 14-17% depending on who you wished to believe. Tourism contributes 10% to our GDP and supplies 25% of the jobs, so having to close down that sector has not only been directly devastating to the workers, but also to people like farmers, craft vendors etc. Jamaica, therefore, cannot continue to have that sector remain closed indefinitely, especially in light of the fact that other competing destinations are gingerly opening up their countries. So while extra attention is being paid to doing everything to keep the spread of the virus to the minimum, like deep and continuous cleaning, the mandatory wearing of masks and keeping people a safe distance apart, had we chosen to test every visitor who visits our shores, no one would be visiting our island soon.
And opening up, cannot mean testing every visitor to the island, for that too would not only be impossible but also it would cause our competitors to wipe us out. With our public health authorities now having a handle on dealing with the virus, the government decided to open up some schools, businesses, and tourism, partially, on the 15th, June 2020.
For tourism, they have declared they are not requiring that visitors certify that they are coronavirus free nor will they be testing everyone who arrives on our shores. This has naturally caused a loud outcry from detractors. But detractors have no responsibility for making decisions that affect people’s lives and livelihood so they can be ignored when they choose to make an issue of everything.
The government has to remain bold and stick to its guns to save the majority from unnecessary peril and starvation. And they are doing just that by having facilities ready to deal with any visitor or tourism worker who becomes ill. It is the right way to proceed.
We have the sea, sun, and fresh air on our side so hopefully, the effect of this damn virus will be minimal and time will prove that this was the sane way to proceed. On a more positive note, this awful virus has highlighted the true value of human effort in societies.
What I mean is that before the pandemic, the “valuable” people based on their remuneration, were, film stars, sportsmen/women and other types of entertainers. When I say valuable, I mean they are the ones who could demand any salary they wanted and get it. Oh, I would never downgrade the role of entertainers and sportspeople, for entertainment in all forms, plays a critical role in drowning monotony and even allowing us to take a break from depressing real-life stresses. Because entertainers and sportspeople fall within the private sector, the players are paid huge salaries.
However, when the pandemic arrived, people suddenly realized the really critical players in the society are teachers, health care workers, sanitation workers, those who provide our food etc. But these are among the lowest paid in most societies! As a result of this new awakening, all sorts of tributes including fly-overs from ace pilots, dedicated songs from musicians have sprouted up to honor the workers in these areas. But will their importance to the society be still recognized once the pandemic is under control?
I would love to be optimistic, but the reality is, most such workers are paid from the public purse worldwide and governments are notorious for underpaying such people. I don’t think it’s because the politicians are especially wicked, but the reality is, improving salaries means having to impose higher taxes and none of us like to pay more taxes!
So back to the title; will their true worth be of value when it comes to prioritizing who should be well compensated? Sadly, even if it does in words, I don’t think it will show where it should, that is, in their compensation packages.