Jan 19, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – There are numerous expectations along with much excitement over the arrival of a vaccine to combat the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic. It is comforting to learn, almost on a daily basis, that more and more places and companies are unveiling their versions of a vaccine for this super-heavyweight and frightening virus. Yet, the word is coming down from authoritative places that we need to manage ourselves carefully, and to understand fully that vaccine or no vaccine, some things are still the same, and will have to remain that way, out of sheer necessity, for the foreseeable future.
The BBC in an article in its online edition pointed this out under the caption, “OECD: Lockdowns here to stay, even with vaccine plan” (BBC, January 8). The outlook is for ‘more lockdowns and social distancing, even with a global vaccine rollout in place.’ As excerpted from the BBC coverage, that was the sobering forecast for 2021 from Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. The projection of the chief economist is that “we probably have another six to nine or 12 months of this ahead of us.” Whether half a year or all of 2021 that looks like an eternity. A lot of people can become infected in that lengthy interval, and a lot more people than already did could die from this virus. It is now displaying more fearsome characteristics, through the detection of mutant strains, which are promising to be even more destructive this time around.
So, although there is the comfort that comes from knowing that a vaccine is around, and may be available, there still remain those essential aspects of our changed lives, which must be complied with, if we are to give ourselves and our families a good chance of surviving whatever the virus throws our way. As Chief Economist Boone stated, “we must keep going both with the non-pharmaceutical measures, the government support and deploy the vaccine, as long and efficiently” and “as fast…and securely as possible.”
In Guyana, the government, through its health authorities, has given notice that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are scheduled to arrive in the second quarter of this year. That is certainly encouraging to hear, but it is still a little distance from today just past mid-January. A lot of things can happen between now and then, with a great deal of human and economic damage inflicted on this struggling society. A point to note is that whatever the quantity of vaccines that comes to Guyana, it would only go so far, and touches a small fraction of this nation’s population. We would hope that there is some order and integrity, as well as decency, to whatever process is employed in the distribution of the vaccines that arrive here. Let us not have more of the same ugly disputes and unending controversies of who received a shot, who should have, and who didn’t because of either selfish gaming of the system, or worse.
Regarding the possible economic fallouts that are feared, the OECD economics head articulated that governments should be aggressive in incurring more debt to assist with keeping their national economies going in the face of this unprecedented crisis. Specifically, she said that “These measures that we have strongly advocated do make sense because this crisis is temporary. So we’re talking about temporary measures and a temporary increase in debt to GDP ratio.” As we look at what has been happening here, it is obvious that the present Guyana government has been way ahead of the OECD chief economist, since a borrowing binge to the tune of many billions has been a regular feature of its strategies and activities. Some of those billions have been said to be for COVID-19 relief, which citizens are experiencing. While, on the other hand, quite a bit of the billions borrowed, or slated to be borrowed, are for high-profile and high-cost projects.
As we observe all of this, we think that there is some overstretch in the borrowing department, which could come back and bite us where it hurts with the overall costs. In the short to medium term, like the people said and this is despite the presence of a vaccine, we have to continue with the regulations and precautions that are in place, if only to give a chance to make it through these testing times. As a necessary public service reminder: wear masks, adhere to social distancing requirements, wash hands, participate on a limited basis in limited gatherings, and engage in essential activities only.
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