COVID-19: A Collateral Beauty?

If Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote about ‘Love in the time of Cholera’, Seed Consultancy is definitely more interested in life after coronavirus. In a well-researched document, one finds not only a current snapshot but, more importantly, what Maltese movers and shakers perceive that the world post-COVID-19 is going to be. It is perhaps significant, therefore, that the document is entitled ‘Agile’, in itself an apt perspective description for a desired economic scenario.

Mr J P Fabri, team leader in this venture said that the document looks at ‘futuristic’ scenario in a world impacted and changed by COVID-19. Immediate measures to save jobs are necessary and required said Fabri but the earlier one gets a handle on the future, the more prepared the companies will be to land on their feet, running. “We need to see the positive aspects of crises…we need to reflect on the past and ask ourselves if the direction we have embarked on is adequate and sustainable and if it will help us build a world and society which will be suited to a post-COVID-19 scenario,” said Fabri.

Broad-based consultation

The consultation for this document was wide-ranging. Dr Stephanie Fabri, Lecturer in Economic and contributing author said that not only were 18 sectors of the Maltese Economy featured through specific interviews. These ranged a vast gamut from Agriculture to financial sectors. There were also specific interviews with business leaders in these areas and a survey among the general public. “The reactions in the document are the fruit of hours of individual interviews,” said Dr Fabri. She added that the various industries are using this time to circle out the inefficiencies in their sectors and businesses with an eye to a more efficient future. Dr Fabri said that, while the industry is feeling the pinch, the vibe for the future is very positive “and this very, very hopeful vibe is very positive,” remarked Dr Fabri.

Organisational Psychologist Prof Vincent Cassar, also a contributor to this document remarked that the results which the survey and interview data turned up are well corroborated by data from other sources and angles, making the results more solid in terms of forecasting ability.

Recommendations

All three speakers converged on the findings. Flexibility was a major find of this document. This was applicable both for employers and employees so that adaptability to a post-COVID-19 world would be less painful. The employers stressed the been for a holistic country vision based on good governance and on institutions which are strong and which work. “Future economies need to be based on values,” said J P Fabri since this would make the economies more sustainable. Government, he said, needs to invest more in skills and education.

Going Green

One of the main areas for sustainability was seen by the responding participants as the need for the economy to go green. The eternal depiction of an economy at loggerheads with the environment needs to be scrapped and for the first time, said Fabri, there may be an indication that there is actually the feeling that this can actually happen. “To this add the emphasis on quality rather than quantity and the importance of digitisation,” added Dr Stephanie Fabri. The latter was a direct result of the enforced remote working which has opened many eyes to a new and more sustainable modus operandi. Dr Fabri stressed that the business leaders are very hopeful for the future and are genuinely very interested in the welfare of their employees. “Solidarity will get us out of this negative cycle quickly” underlined Dr Fabri.

Humanising the economy

Prof Vince Cassar said that three important non-economic aspects emerged from the study. The isse of solidarity, already alluded to by Dr Fabri, was an important theme which underlined the need to pull together to get out of the negative cycle quickly. Another aspect which emerged was one of sustainability and social justice. He said that this involved the elements of harmonising a market driven economy with sustainability to render living a more just experience. “This is a most important element for our future” said Prof Cassar. The final link said Prof Cassar was the element of planning where planning is possible. He said that these viewpoints indicate a yearning to re-introduce the human element in the economy so that the future generations will find a basis for growth. He quoted an academic colleague who called the COVID-19 experience ‘A collateral Beauty” since this period would enable persons to live better.

“It would be a very wasted effort if after all this we learn nothing and revert to pre-coronavirus practices” concluded Prof Cassar