“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer
The term 20/20 normally conjures up ideas regarding the acuity of our vision or sight. In hindsight, the reality of the year 2020 was one that few, if any, of us conceived of at the start of the year. As the old year slowly sauntered into the new, many of us were busy making new year’s resolutions about what we were determined to accomplish in the year ahead. Most of those expectations were quickly dashed by the uninvited intrusion of the novel coronavirus that interrupted our lives, on a global scale, in the early months of 2020.
In the lightning flash of an instant, our lives were radically transformed. The things that we took for granted slowly slipped away, like seawater in the palms of our hands, irretrievably consumed by the vastness of the ocean whose scope seems limitless.
We know now that the post-COVID-19 era will require new thinking on all levels of human intercourse. It will require a quantum shift in how we view and interact with our world and with each other.
Therefore, this week, and in the weeks ahead, we would like to consider this — what will be required to reset our mindset if we are going to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis more robust and more resilient than we were before the pandemic transformed our lives?
Racing for the cure
The largest, most industrialized nations are racing for a cure as they search for a vaccination that will obliterate this pandemic. While we are daily deluged by developments regarding the quest for the miraculous medicine that will save us, many are reluctant, or at least dubious, about whether the cure is being propelled by politics or by science.
The concern about the efficacy of a vaccination that is purportedly just months away could have the unintended consequence of prolonging the disease if enough people are not prepared to use it for fear of its effectiveness and safety.
In a Gallup COVID-19 tracking survey based on July 20 to August 2 polling, many Americans appeared reluctant to be vaccinated, even if the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine and offered it to them at no cost.
Asked if they would get such a COVID-19 vaccine, 65 percent said they would, but 35 percent would not. That translates into approximately 123 million Americans who said they would not be vaccinated.
This reluctance reflects a degree of deep distrust that many Americans possess about world-renowned institutions like the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) because political motives and agendas have corrupted those institutions.
This development begs several vital questions for Bahamians.
What will be our perspective about being vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease?
What implications does this have for containing and eradicating the disease here? And whenever the cure is available for mass distribution in the United States or elsewhere, when will Bahamian citizens receive a shipment for local immunization? What travel limitations will other countries place on our citizens who have not been vaccinated? Only time will tell.
It appears that we will have to live with COVID-19 for the remainder of this year and well into 2021. We will, therefore, have to reset our mindset about how we effectively co-exist with this disease.
Our new normal
What will our new world look like here at home? There are so many questions that must be answered before we can gain a clear picture of a post-COVID-19 Bahamas.
Many of the things that we have taken for granted will have to be reassessed. Our macro and micro-economies, our social lives, our churches and our school environment will have to be reviewed in a post-COVID-19 Bahamas. We will have to forge a new Bahamian culture.
The Bahamian economy is too susceptible to external shocks. We witnessed this in the post-911 era and, more recently, in the wake of the Great Recession that began in 2008. In the coming weeks, we will consider how to address them in the vital areas of tourism, financial services, immigration and macro and micro-economies.
Our anemic tourism sector has already felt the devastating effects of COVID-19.
Tourism, which historically accounted for 60 percent of GDP and which employs about half the Bahamian workforce, has come to a virtual standstill, resulting in the terminations or furloughs of at least 20,000 Bahamians who work in that sector. Not only have hotel workers been affected, but so have taxi drivers, restaurateurs, arts and crafts vendors and a myriad of persons who are tangentially connected to that sector.
In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, there were some companies in the major world capitals that were too big to fail and did not fail because government intervention prevented them from doing so. With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses continued on life support because First World governments possessed the wherewithal to prevent them from failing.
We are not so fortunate in The Bahamas. The Bahamas government cannot afford to replicate such bail-out schemes. The funds are just not there.
The resurgence of this industry, as is the case in many First World countries, requires the sustainable control of the COVID-19 disease, both here and abroad. We cannot expect to reopen our borders to pre-COVID-19 traffic volumes until we get better control of this disease.
Next week, we will discuss how we can reset our mindset in this vital sector of our economy to minimize the external shocks to this important industry.
For most of the 21st Century, our financial services sector has been violently assailed by international institutions such as the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) and others. They have sought to destroy this sector. They continue to move the goalposts, assail our sovereignty and callously and systematically assassinate the stakeholders in the industry. Successive governments have understandably acquiesced to these neo-imperialists who would prefer to see us return to a less thriving economic state.
Those international institutions must be brought to heel and made to clearly understand that enough is enough. There are specific measures that we can take to obviate the existential threat that they pose. But this also requires resetting our mindset regarding these forces that would relegate us to servitude by demanding we kowtow to their demands. We will address some of them in part two of this series.
For too long, we have suffered from a xenophobic zeal that has stifled our approach to immigration.
In this new world we live in, we can strike a workable balance between Bahamianization, which is still of paramount importance for our sustained growth, and a level of openness that will produce vast dividends for our country. But we must reset our mindset about how we deal with immigration matters if we expect to emerge from the xenophobic funk that has too long hampered our growth.
We will address some progressive options in part two of this series.
The macro- and micro-economies
In part three of this series, we will discuss what we can do to address both the macro and micro-economies. We must overhaul our taxation system to ensure that it is fair to all and that it urgently addresses the public finances needed to defray the cost of running the government.
In addition, we must assess how we will enhance the micro-economy to ensure that more Bahamians receive a larger share of the economic pie.
The challenges that confront us are enormous, but they are not insurmountable. All our challenges have solutions that are directly in front of us. If we are going to resist the violent external shocks that frequently threaten us, we must commit to rethinking and reshaping our culture in the context of a rapidly changing globalized world.
By resetting our mindset, we can demonstrate to ourselves and the world that The Bahamas can still be among the greatest countries in the community of nations. We only need to reset our mindsets to take on and make all the tough decisions that lie before us.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.