We need to think possibilities in this new normal, we must help ourselves
At the beginning of 2020, some people thought that by this time of the year, things would be back to “normal” in so far as restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic go. They were wrong.
By the looks of things, these conditions, challenges and restrictions – including international travel - are here to stay and we could be looking well into the New Year before things change. Gone are the days where travelling to Auckland for the weekend was just as easy as a ferry trip from Mulifanua to Salelologa and back.
The mere thought of 14-days quarantine on both sides of a trip anywhere is as unattractive as the ridiculously expensive cost of travelling these days. It’s an uncomfortable thought but it also comes with the unmistakable truth, which is this is the new normal. It is what it is indeed; we can either oppose and treat it as a headache or accept it and do the best we can to make the most out of what is obviously not an idea situation.
Today we want to think of possibilities in adversity. We want to think of how we can make the best of this new normal. We need to be creative in our thinking; be innovative in the solutions and be flexible in our decision-making knowing that nobody else will help us but ourselves.
We say this because everywhere we look today, the outlook is grim. With the number of coronavirus cases increasing in countries near and far, although Samoa is virus-free, the impact of the border shutdowns and the knock-on effect of global preventative measures have already taken a toll on us in a major way.
Take the once bustling tourism industry for instance. With the coronavirus pandemic coming on the back of the measles crisis, it has literally applied the knock out blow so that the tourism industry – and everyone else all the way down to the vendor who sold handicrafts and food to tourists on streets - has been crippled.
Today, we find ourselves in an environment fraught with challenges that appear insurmountable. Socially and economically, things are in a downward spiral. With unemployment figures rising, poverty is inevitable and we see this everyday on the streets of Samoa.
Revenue generation for ordinary people has become such a task it no longer seems within the reach of some people. Many of them have resorted to a sad life of begging and crime to get by. The stories on the pages of this newspaper about robberies break-ins and the alarming crime rate do not lie. They reflect what is happening today.
The scariest part is judging from what we have been told is that the worst is yet to come. On the front page of the Sunday Samoan, the Central Bank of Samoa has warned that the worst is yet to come. In its update of the Samoan economy in the first eleven months of FY 2019/20 to May 2020, the bank paints a pessimistic picture, looking into the future.
But this is hardly surprising given the circumstances. It is not just tourism that has been impacted, exports have been struck a major blow.
The seasonal workers programme, which remittances so heavily relied upon, has also been affected. With businesses closing in New Zealand and Australia, Samoan seasonal workers whose livelihoods and that of their families depended upon it, are returning home by planeloads. All those people will eventually become a burden to the system because they will need to find new cash generating work and ways to put food on the table.
In the sporting arena, the sons and daughters of Samoa who are plying their trade in professional clubs all over the world have also been impacted so that their ability to help their families back in Samoa has been severely limited.
We can go on and on but the point is that as a nation, we need to start seriously thinking about how we can survive this storm. The worry is that nobody seems to know when this is likely to blow over. Which means we face such an uncertain future that whatever we do, we need to be strategic, smart and calculated so we can help each other.
So where do we go from here? What do we do? Ironically, according to the Central Bank’s report, they are encouraging people to share what they have and spend generously wherever they can to stimulate the economy. We agree. Without tourists and outsiders in Samoa, all we have is ourselves.
Looking at what’s happening now, the tourism industry is moving towards capitalising on the local market by lowering rates and offering attractive deals for our people to take advantage of these top-notch facilities.
This is a good start. But we can do much, much more.
What we do not understand are these continuous restrictions on Sunday trading, including the closure of gas stations, ban on alcohol sale at resorts and hotels and the ban on swimming and other basic activities on Sunday? What do these achieve?
Without a case of coronavirus, how will these help Samoa? We can’t even find a place to fix a flat tyre on a Sunday, let alone petrol. What’s the relevance of these ridiculous rules? Are they coronavirus-related or are they merely at the whim of a Government abusing the opportunity to assert more influence control?
Whatever it is, we want to reiterate that it is time for Samoa as a nation to come together to think of a way to wait out the next few months, possibly longer in terms of the coronavirus restrictions and impact. Things are already extremely tough. The Government needs to create an enabling atmosphere to ensure businesses thrive and people have money in their pockets so we can self-stimulate the economy – and help ourselves.
From our standpoint, that is the only way. What do you think?