The frenzy of reopening

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 June, 2020 at 2:56 pm by Andre Camilleri

All of a sudden, all the pent-up tension of the past months has exploded in a tidal wave of liberatory celebrations.

People have flocked to the beaches far earlier than they usually do. The traffic has returned to its clogging normal. The streets and squares are no longer ghost panoramas.

People are out and about. The restaurants are doing a roaring trade but the retail outlets seem to still suffer from the effects of the pandemic.

And now the airport is reopening in just three weeks’ time and people await summer to salvage a lost year. They are being encouraged by a whole choir of optimists from the prime minister downwards who declaim with more rhetoric than reason that the emergency is over and that ‘we’ have won.

That is not what the doctors and the frontliners are saying but these are now shunted aside in the general euphoria. Protocols are still being published in an avalanche of documents and some activities such as spectator sports and of course the ever-popular festi are still banned along with concerts such as Isle of MTV. So the reported victory is rather nuanced.

The government has been quite generous with cash handouts although there are some doubts whether the bonanza is reaching everyone. And now on Monday we will be getting what has been described as a ‘multi- million Budget’, which seems to be the fourth tranche of government help.

Meanwhile there is the ‘big bazooka’ from the European Commission but the government, specifically the Minister for Finance, has been rather sceptical about the other side of this help because of concern this could come with conditions attached such as rule of law observance or some general pan-European tax.

When the prime minister was understood (misunderstood, he said) that those who were fined could get the fine refunded, many concluded that money was more important than health for many people.

But indeed, the cumulative impact of the pandemic on the economy and on business in general is only now becoming clear. Some businesses have closed, and will not reopen. Others are on life-support.

It is also becoming more clear that many methods of old must be changed and that competition, here and abroad, has already changed theirs.

Just as we needed (but did not get) a general clean-up while the roads were clear, so too our business processes and practices need a good clean-up – and we’re not talking about the government processes only here but also those of the private sector.

There is far too great a reliance on the government here. Just look at local television and most of the adverts you see derive in one way or another from the government.

The private sector used to be the motor of the economy but now, it seems, it is more content to get the government hand-outs, and meanwhile keep its nose clean.

We must return back to normal, they tell us, but there will be no new normal unless the private sector wakes up.

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