Will we ever get to see the post-COVID world? And when we get there, how would it look like?
Will restaurants, bars, shopping malls, tourist hotspots, public transport and flights operate in the same way they did before the pandemic struck, and will consumerism fuel enough growth to reverse the economic damage?
We don’t know yet.
But in times of a crisis, seemingly impractical ideas suddenly appear viable.
One such is that of the universal basic income, which is a product of the socialistic school of thinking.
With an alarming spike in layoffs mainly in the retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors, governments all around the world have started announcing historically large bailout packages. A substantial proportion of the bailout money is being doled out to individuals rendered jobless by the pandemic, much like the universal basic income that provides a guaranteed income to every citizen to cover the basic cost of living and reduce income inequality.
Such measures, while not completely new for us as they are already implemented in many European countries, may not be feasible in the long run. Nation’s have a limited supply of money and cannot go on spending astronomical sums to bailout their economies and citizens.
Global public debt has already touched the highest level in peacetime. This will impact long-term growth prospects, employment and human well-being.
Against such a backdrop, now more than ever, it’s time to save capitalism.
But hitting the reset button requires gigantic efforts with people’s lives at stake.
Big businesses, given their resources, have been quick to adapt. They charted effective business continuity plans and reinvented their modus operandi to keep going. Given their massive working capitals, the herculean task wasn’t too difficult.
For example, in response to the nosediving demand, large cab aggregators tied up with e-grocery platforms – the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic – to deliver essential items at customers’ doorsteps. Food delivery apps have been touting highest safety standards to support themselves and the restaurants, solely dependent on them for business at present. Fashion brands and other consumer goods companies shifted gears to their online sales channels to support business. They also started offering relevant products in response to the new normal – masks, sanitizers, air purifiers, pulse oximeters, and thermal thermometers.
Meanwhile, factories are reopening gradually with staggered shifts and strict social distancing rules, keeping in mind workers’ safety, even as software firms have extended work from home for its employees till the year-end.
Despite such frantic efforts, which has shown how quickly we can make radical changes, the road to recovery would be a long and arduous one.
Certain industries such as the airlines and hospitality may never fully rebound, and layoffs, salary cuts and hiring freezes may continue to dog us for quite some time in the near future.
To lessen the impact, people will have to be skilled in new areas. Public and private institutions would have to join forces to prepare the jobless for new roles in the post-pandemic world.
To be sure, the entire economic system is already seeing seismic shifts and to reboot capitalism, we’ll have to prepare new roles and a new normal for that matter.