A DELICATE BALANCE NEEDED: Economic and Health Implications of Reopening of the Borders, while coping with COVID-19.

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By: Mercia Bassue

While the world impatiently awaits the end of the Global Pandemic Covid-19, many experts have cautioned that “we are in a war”, insinuating that there will be further economic deterioration and strain on already overwhelmed health care systems. Suggesting as well, that the psychological, social, cultural and physical impacts will surpass anything that we have seen in centuries. The possibility of a new surge of the virus lurks and while a vaccine may not be available until Summer 2021, persons are itching to travel and return to a state of normalcy. A wide cross- section of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is calling on the authorities to reopen its borders. The government under the directive of the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) must strike a balance as the country needs both healthy people and a thriving economy. Maintaining this balancing act will be an all societal approach with the expertise of international health and financial agencies as a reference point.

Economic and cultural adjustments (Opening up the local economy and entertainment industry)

Curfews and lockdowns impacted the economy tremendously. It is felt that ending the existing night curfew will allow entertainers, bars and restaurants operators and others who ply their trade at nights to bounce back from the months of lockdown which resulted in loss of income. The night life at ‘The Strip’ and other popular liming areas are disrupted, when patrons have to return home by 2 a.m.; stimulating the economy by supporting local entertainment will also remove the air of frustration among small businesses, in particular, many who feel that they should be given more consideration by the government. A well-needed boost to the local economy will see waitresses, taxi drivers, fishermen, wholesalers and other service related businesses back on their feet.

IS CARNIVAL AN OPTION?

We cannot evade the questions “Does the economic climate in the country lend itself to the hosting of National Carnival 2020 or any other such major event?” Can our already scarce resources take additional financial pressure?” Lessons learnt from COVID-19 include the importance of preserving resources and saving money. Many individuals and households were caught with their pants down when crisis struck and had to rely totally on the Social Security COVID-19 payments and the Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP) for economic survival. There are over 1000 new applicants for (PAP) which indicates an increase dependence on government assistance.

An examination of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projection indicates that the fallout from the pandemic has inflicted a toll on the economies of the world and economic activities are down. According to the World Economic Outlook Update for June 2020 dubbed ‘A Crisis like no other an uncertain recovery’ the growth projection for emerging markets and developing economies (Latin America and the Caribbean) including St. Kitts and Nevis are as follows; 0.1% growth in 2019, 2020 -9.4% and 2021 3.7%.

Health Care

The government must prioritize spending in health and emergency services and avoid unnecessary spending. Health care systems must be adequately resourced with human and physical capacity. Much focus must be placed on having sufficient medical supplies including ventilators, sanitizing agents, protective gears, quarantine facilities, test kits etc. in order to respond to possible outbreaks as the country reopen its borders. The task force and police must strictly enforce the wearing of masks and the practicing of social distancing to avoid a disruption of the achievements thus far in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens must adhere to the protocols and regulations that are outlined by the NEOC.

Conclusion
The government is positioning itself for the reopening of the borders to commercial travel and business. The country cannot have healthy starving citizens; on the other hand, it cannot have a rich economy and sick people. Therefore taking all factors into consideration and weighing the balance is necessary. Responding to both health and the economy implications will ultimately contribute to the federation rebounding from this global pandemic. The inevitable reopening of the borders is scheduled for October 2020.

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