Now is the time to map out our next-generation economy

By learning from the adjustments that mother nature has imposed on us in the wake of COVID-19, this space will define those countries that will be able to bounce back into the global game-plan

Valletta's Freedom Square: empty and eerie
Valletta's Freedom Square: empty and eerie

The last days have given us a taste of what life will look like over the next few months. The virus’s spread has managed to restore a new normal in one fell swoop: the hectic congestion replaced with deserted streets. Road-rage gave way to an otherwise unthinkable flowing traffic. The limited face time with our children reversed to an overnight home-schooling environment. The gift of social proximity abruptly replaced with the plea for social distancing.

We’re still in shock and striving hard to adjust our lifestyles to the COVID-19 scenario, with many of us concerned about the prospects of our families’ livelihoods due to the sudden economic upheaval which is shaping a radically new paradigm for workplaces. When the shock effect subsides, we shall need to manage the challenge of adaptation. In the meantime, we need to weather the storm and ensure that we reach calmer waters, safely and together.

As an Opposition we strived hard to firstly hammer out the need to ensure that no business, small and large, fail as this is the primary safeguard for the retention of the employment base.

After a week of trepidation, government came around to accept that its original two packages would not be sufficient to keep the economy afloat. The half-baked ‘third package’ it carved out aids a select number of sectors but dismally sidelines others which have been the prime movers of value-added and economic growth over the last years. If government is thinking that employees in companies in sectors such as the knowledge-based industry, manufacturing, technology and self-employed individuals in professional practice will not be impacted harshly by COVID-19, it needs to think again.

Once government comes around with the fourth instalment of its package to grant the necessary lifeline to all struggling enterprises, our mission would still be nowhere close to being accomplished. Really and truly that will be ground zero, on which we now need to build the future state of our economy and determine how our next-generation  society will mindfully adapt to it. This will be a mammoth task which requires vision, strategic insight, a passion for meaningful change and an understanding of how technology will shape the workplace and society of tomorrow.

Now is the time to start mapping out our next generation economy, learning from the adjustments that mother nature has imposed on us in the wake of COVID-19. This is the space which will define those countries that will be able to bounce back into the global game-plan, fixing what was deficient and taking the opportunity to build an economy which truly works for its people, valuing human life and resisting the throwaway culture.

We should collectively aspire for an economy that will place liveability at its centre, wherein technological application will be the great equaliser in a society built on human dignity with a decent living income for all households in a reasonable work-life balance that will never allow the rot that took over the last years to repeat itself.

COVID-19 is also showing us that we need to make a radical shift in our political mindset. Despite the Opposition offering to form an integral part of a national effort to address this major crisis, sadly, government flatly refused this proposal even before it was conceived. Since the onset of this crisis, the Opposition put forward a pipeline of proposals which were supported by the key stakeholders but initially shot down by government, merely due to the source being the Opposition. Eventually they were adopted, albeit late in the day.

More than ever it is amply evident that to be effective, politics doesn’t always need to be a confrontational zero-sum game. We’re all in this together and, as a minimum, we should be able to converge all our best talent and resources into one national effort to be able to bounce back on time and in shape.

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