The past two years have been about transitions. Indeed, 2021 just like last year has been a year of difficulties: Missed opportunities, loss of loved ones, job cuts, name it. Yet in spite of everything, life must go on. We have to adjust and fit in the new normal.
While there is still a lot of uncertainty as to when the pandemic will end, life is gradually returning to normal due to human resilience. The government’s relatively successful vaccination campaign is not only saving lives but also giving hope that the worst is behind us.
However, as we adjust to the new normal, life is far from normal particularly for those who lost their loved ones as well as sources of livelihood due to the pandemic.
While the government continues to do a commendable job in protecting lives and supporting businesses hard hit by the pandemic; more interventions will be needed in the New Year to support the nascent recovery recorded in 2021.
So far most of the economic support has been ring fenced for specific sectors that the government considers to have been severely hit by the pandemic — tourism and hospitality sectors. Yet covid-19 restrictions hit many small and micro businesses in the retail sector, just like many family owned businesses in the informal sector.
Given that our economy is still largely informal and small and medium businesses remain the majority, economic relief including loans should be made available to the informal sector. And for it to work better, it should be made accessible with additional tax incentives.
More importantly, the government should engage commercial banks to lend to the private sector as many banks remain risk averse and appear to be more focused on containing non-performing loans. Without sufficient credit to the private, economic recovery will be very slow.
At the moment, no one knows when the pandemic will end. But there is growing optimism that the worst is over as vaccination campaigns accelerate and the economy remains open. But we know the vaccine is not a silver bullet; we must continue to follow safety guidelines to protect ourselves from catching the virus. It is also important to get fully vaccinated and get the booster shot as soon as one is eligible.
We are incredibly grateful to our frontline workers whose unwavering commitment to serve has helped us survive the worst of this year’s health crisis. We are also grateful to the unsung heroes in homes, the caregivers who continue to offer unpaid services during the pandemic.
Despite the incredibly difficult year, we hope you will take the time to reflect and appreciate the small and big things that went right this year. Take time to reflect on the year ahead; what big steps or changes you need to make in 2022. Whatever your personal circumstances, we wish you and your loved ones a happy festive season and best wishes for the New Year. May 2022 be the year of good health and prosperity.