“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is an oft-used phrase to imply that as things become challenging to deal with, focused determination, strength of character and courage to face naysayers and obstructionists whilst doing the right thing are required.
It is most welcome news from the Prime Minister that within four to six weeks, the borders will reopen. Having focused on the pandemic regarding vaccines and vaccination and now reaching a potential turning point in better control, it is very heartening to learn that greater attention will now be paid to the economy, businesses and job losses.
The loss of jobs, fast-diminishing foreign exchange and insufficient focus on revenue streams have put the Government “between the devil and the deep blue sea” as it seeks to resuscitate the economy, which has deteriorated since early last year. A key consideration must be revisiting its projects and reclassifying them as essential, particularly construction projects, and “nice-to-have”, which can be postponed to a later date when the economy begins to show positive growth.
A key dilemma will be, should it focus on economics, livelihoods or a mixture of both as the Government tries to grow the economy, resuscitate faltering businesses and prevent further unemployment, while having to cut back on some expenditure.
The Government must be reminded that it is the small man’s money that keeps the economy going as he spends almost all that he earns, whilst the businessman focuses on investments. It therefore becomes imperative to focus on small and medium businesses, whilst engaging in larger projects, because they constitute the majority of businesses and will enable a quicker return to rejuvenation of the economy than larger projects, which are mired in bureaucracy and take a long time to germinate.
Dependence on oil and the value it brings to the country through taxation must be quickly reassessed in light of alternate energy sources. Now is a most opportune time to move away from an oil and gas-based economy and diversify more greatly into tourism, hospitality, agriculture, food processing, information technology and arts and entertainment.
Too much lip service has been paid to diversification but the pandemic has brought reality to a depressed economy and mandates that the Government articulates its plans to grow revenue in light of decreasing energy income. The current pandemic and less-than-admirable management of the economy over the past five years unequivocally testify to the bold need to do things differently.
The pandemic has created a new norm and previously-fledgling initiatives are now taking centre stage. Teleworking or telecommuting, whether working from home or another place away from the office, needs to take greater precedence in businesses and more particularly the Government, given the tremendous advances in technology.
Although there are issues being addressed in the education sector and some in the business environment, the Government must demonstrate greater interest in teleworking and decentralisation and not just treat them cursorily even though there are issues such as productivity, face-to-face communication, some legal issues and even envy by those whose jobs prevent them from working away from the office. True decentralisation requires full service and not just an office with partial services.
Despite vaccination and possible herd immunity, the Covid-19 virus will be a permanent fixture and initiatives which began in the pandemic must be pursued more vigorously, such as home delivery by supermarkets, pharmacies, vegetable markets-on-wheels, fast-food outlets and even brand name food places.
The pandemic has also created a golden opportunity for businesses, regardless of size, to truly focus on customer service, something which businesses are quick to speak about but are woefully inadequate in terms of execution. Building greater confidence and trust with customers will go a long way in retaining customer loyalty. Customer service training entities can leverage this shortcoming by making greater contact with businesses and incorporating more fully the issues that require greater and better focus.
Unfortunately, the Government has been touting “all hands on deck” but its seeming arrogance is not really “making friends” and “influencing people”.
Rejuvenation of the economy requires all to put their shoulders to the wheel and shorten the timeframe for positive economic growth. Increasing borrowing, reducing subsidies, profligate spending and pursuing nice-to-have projects at this time will cause further hardships for the population and further undermine the quest for economic recovery. If this were to occur, it will clearly signify ill-advised economics and mismanagement of the country’s resources.
T&T has very adequate human resources with enviable intellectual capabilities, which the Government can cull from the Opposition, businesses and the University of the West Indies to put together a plan that will have sufficient buy-in by both Trinbagonians and businesses. Unquestionably, egos must take second place to pragmatism in a depressed economy struggling to survive.
Will the Government’s attitude to growth and sustainability of the economy engender positivity?