Out of adversity comes opportunity, the old adage says.
The minister of finance and business leaders have recently sounded the warning that we are in for a rough 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on. Not that we needed the minister or anyone else to tell us; the cries of disadvantaged are everywhere.
Over 400 businesses either closed or scaled back significantly since the onset of the pandemic, while almost 3000 employees across various sectors have been laid off and others who were not laid off have been placed on reduced time schedules and hours. Also, with the regulations about physical distancing and mass gatherings now being enforced, socializing and many recreational activities have been curtailed, leaving many with more time on their hands than usual.
But we should not overlook or waste the opportunity brought on by the slow down, neither should we wallow in a quagmire of self-pity – we might get stuck. Whenever there is a lock down, pause, or in the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a slowdown, there will, of necessity, one day be an opening up and uptick in the economy. Wherever there is an exorbitant increase in price of an imported commodity, an opportunity opens up for a local substitute.
This “pause” in which we now find ourselves is the perfect time to reflect on the trajectory we wish to take when the world re-opens. This is the perfect time to use the land around our homes to plant more of what we eat and use the extra time that we have on our hands to learn a new skill, turn a hobby into a business or take an online course to upgrade our competencies.
What will the world look like post-COVID? There are some things that will never go back to how they were before, we know that for sure. But for what services or products will there be an increased demand and how could we position ourselves to make these opportunities work for us?
Many businesses have been using the challenges presented by COVID-19 to re-engineer business processes, eliminate inefficiencies and make more effective use of information communication technology. What aspects of the business did not work well pre-COVID? Now is the time to fix them, so that we re-emerge far better than before. It is not farfetched to imagine that many jobs that existed prior to March 2020 will be made redundant post-COVID. We must retool ourselves to be relevant in the new economy.
Businesses are preparing to hit the ground running, post-COVID, trying to anticipate the growth areas once we are free to once move around, socialize and travel. As they try to get ahead of the competition, we as a nation must do likewise. It may be too early to say with certainty, but already it appears that in those countries that are far advanced with their vaccination roll out, there is a reduction in the number of people falling seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. The return to full activity may happen before the end of the year. We cannot be left behind; everything must be done on the individual, organizational and national level to ready ourselves for the opportunities that certainly will come.