The curfew starting at 3:00 pm over the Easter weekend brought a time of quiet; time to think above the usual hustle and bustle; above the needless blowing of horns by impatient and frustrated road users; above the crass behaviours of the up and downtowners throwing garbage out of their windows; and the frustration of gang members and murderers having to stay home at night. It was a different and gentler experience for most, and a nightmare for some of the creatures that go bump in the night.
Blessed Easter to all the people of the world; and peace, love and tolerance to everyone. There is a message to all of us to be kind to one another that has never been so evident in my entire lifetime. That message at this time is that the Earth is really our only asset; we are totally dependent on its bounty and our very lives depend on its sustainability whether we are the operators of huge factories spewing pollutants into the air, or slash and burn farmers on Jamaica’s mountains or in the Amazon Basin.
There are far too many disaster movies that have clearly given warnings of some kind of apocalypse, nuclear war, asteroid impact, small viruses, alien invasion, floods and fires, and retribution, which should stimulate temperance in the midst of unbridled greed.
The feast of unleavened bread (Passover) of the Jewish faith coincides with Easter and is quite appropriate for the wish that COVID-19 will pass us by. In the Muslim faith the fasting day of Ramadan will be in April. For the Hindi faith they celebrate Ram Navami. The cumulative response is Resurrection, sparing lives, and thanksgiving for the spring season where new birth blossoms. Think of these before we start losing ourselves in self-pity and despair; life goes on in what we know can be a cleaner and more sustainable planet.
The unfortunate business crunch across the nation may well identify those areas which may not be sustainable and which will fail and be proven to fail. They will identify their methods, markets, and financing, as to be so obvious that they will not require expensive consultants to do more work to prove that the world is not flat. At the same time the decisions required to pivot (wheel and come again), will become more appealing due to the rigours of the COVID-19 “examinations”.
Several questions surrounding industries affected worldwide came to mind.
Since my last article that included IFRS 9 cautions, the major international banks have had to consider taking large ownership stakes in the oil industry in order to avoid massive loan provisions that would be required under the current rules. It will be so hilarious to see the stuffy financial gurus of Wall St and London, leaving their expensive suits behind in favour of the hard hats and boots of the oilrig owners and workers. Will Jamaican bankers become the owners of the bag juice and school vending businesses?
Seriously, which industries will recover first among our major local economic contributors? Will it be stop-over or cruise tourism? My bet would be cruise tourism as many excursions have been paid for in advance and they may be usable but not refundable. They are “sunk costs” for the traveller. By the time the crisis really ends, Alaska and Northern Europe into Russia will be facing winter, and the Caribbean will be in prime time (hurricanes excepted). Do we have all of the berths and activities to capitalize on this? Hotels will make a recovery during the 2020/21 winter season and now may be the time to invest in the refurbishing of local properties.
The manufacturing sector will recover early, and as long as they are aware that they must focus on items that will be in demand, they will quickly find their way.
The eventual behaviours of the firms in the various BPO-related sectors will define themselves by the levels of confidence of their employees based on how they were treated during the crisis. Remittances will recover slowly but will reveal the true depth of pockets within the diaspora who seemingly always have a better life than we enjoyed at home. We may in fact be faced with a massive homecoming especially by those who may have identified their ability to work from home. For those who bring skills we will especially welcome them.
Mining will continue to be slow until world usage of aluminum (vehicles, new housing starts and other major usages worldwide pickup), however a new plane manufacturing restart will not be a part of the recovery process.
Labour opportunities in first-world agriculture may not be realized by traditional migrant workers; so America and Canada may have to reap their own orchard and vegetable crops themselves. In Jamaica we must contemplate and put into immediate action the policy that labour should be offered work planting food crops on currently available and suitable unused public lands.
The policy of building structures for foreign corporations must be revised as they will simply just leave (please remember free zone garments), and leave us holding real estate with no prospects. This speaks to some adoption of the self-reliance economic teachings of our first National Hero.
Finally, our local banks and other financial and investment firms must re-evaluate their focus and policies in order to decide between illusory paper chases, and real productive assets. Such an illusion and consequence in this rapid circulation of unbacked paper is that when the major players that drive the vortex fail, then everyone else gets sucked in. Remember “too big to fail”?
It is our time of decision. It is our time to change and become relevant. It is our time to leap over the seeming hurdles of history into the middle of the 21st Century and take our place as the really talented Jamaicans that we portray ourselves to be.