New Era

Covid-19 and lessons for the future

- Dr Marius Kudumo

The outbreak of Covid-19 has disrupted and negatively impacted the economy, jobs, income, and livelihood­s in unpreceden­ted manners.

The impact is occurring in the context of existing social challenges such as extreme and deepening poverty, impact of climate change on livelihood­s, food insecurity, high levels of social and income inequaliti­es, and lack of access to any form of social protection for the majority of the people.

Against this background, it is opportune for citizens and government­s to discern whether humanity is learning lessons from the Covid-19 experience­s.

One of the lessons we ought to learn, is the need to build resilient, innovative, flexible, and adaptive institutio­ns, systems, and processes capable of responding promptly and effectivel­y.

Another lesson is supposed to be rethinking, reimaginin­g, and creating new global and national ethical human values and principles.

History has taught over the years that humanity seems to have short memories and fail in most instances to learn.

We tend to resort to business as usual, and to our comfort zones after disastrous events.

The pre ambl e to the Constituti­on of the United

Nations Educationa­l, Scientific and Cultural Organisati­on, an agency establishe­d after the Second World War, asserts that the ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of humankind of that suspicion and mistrust between peoples of the world through which their difference­s have all often broken into war.

Despite this warning in the 1940s already, prejudice, mistrust and discrimina­tion persist in the world today.

The Unesco constituti­on further states that a peace based exclusivel­y upon the political and economic arrangemen­ts of government­s would not be a peace, which could secure lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world.

Peace must, therefore, be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectu­al and moral solidarity of humankind.

A reminder from the corona virus is that we belong to one human family, and that no single state or individual is capable of effectivel­y addressing global challenges and concerns.

Our internalis­ed humanness ought to help humanity to have feelings about one another, to support each other, and to act in solidarity, and in support of especially the needy and most vulnerable in society.

In the case of Namibia, we have read about, and have seen positive stories of unemployed and ordinary citizens collecting financial and other resources to support those in most need.

As a lesson from Covid-19, humanity ought to enhance the values of humanness, interdepen­dency, solidarity, and promoting the common good above individual interests and greedy.

Covid-19 has also reminded us about the value of all work and workers. This includes profession­s that government­s seem to have been neglecting.

Suddenly, and as a result of the virus, society including government­s have begun to value the work of health profession­als, media profession­als, law enforcemen­t officers, and educators, amongst others.

The question is whether this appreciati­on would result in commensura­te improved conditions of service and work or would remain symbolic.

Another preoccupat­ion ought to be serious planning series focusing on the impact of the pandemic on income, livelihood­s, and the economy, and the need for a national and comprehens­ive livelihood and economic recovery plan.

The Namibia Statistics Agency has reported that the domestic economy has contracted by 11% during the second quarter of 2020.

The contractio­n is across the entire sectors of the economy. A critical focus, therefore, ought to be on restarting and rebuilding the economy and livelihood­s.

First Capital Namibia in their report: Namibia economic t r ans format ion journe y, 1990 - 2020 has analysed the structure and performanc­e of the Namibian economy and has made recommenda­tions about structural economic transforma­tion.

The Basic Income Grant (Big) Coalition has also provided options in addressing income inequaliti­es and social transforma­tion.

Covid-19 despite the devastatin­g effect, offers an opportunit­y for Namibians to rethink, and through a genuine, evidence-based, and inclusive participat­ory process, develop a sector prioritize­d short, medium, and long-term economic and social recovery plan.

The Mid -Term Budget Review in October could have been the starting point in introducin­g different budgeting scenarios and forecasts, and reallocati­ng resources through a thought process, and according to real human needs.

Another matter of concern is the extent to which policy makers and the bureaucrac­y have internalis­ed the impact of Covid- 19, and therefore, the need for urgency, thinking beyond the box, and flexibilit­y in all government operations.

Someone with an outsider perspectiv­e gets the impression that Covid-19 has not brought about the required anticipati­on, responsive­ness, and coordinati­on measures in government and other institutio­ns.

The citizenry by now for example, expects a public available cost-benefit analysis document demonstrat­ing whether curtailing expenditur­e such as freezing filling of posts, working remotely, minimising subsistenc­e and travel expenses, and other measurers during lockdown, have perhaps yielded savings for reallocati­on.

In a nutshell, Namibia needs to modernise policies, practices, and methods of work in all our institutio­ns to become organisati­ons of the future.

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