COVID19 is offering crash courses in several subjects. The main one for many is economics. In the few months since most have had to live with the pandemic and restricted movements imposed by many governments, we have learned about:
-demand (falling in many areas, as people lose jobs and pay, bringing into focus unemployment).
–supply (some goods are less available as companies have to close or limit output; agricultural products are in surplus and in danger of rotting; some countries are curbing exports of medical supplies and food; supply chain disruptions are widespread).
–prices (rising sharply as shortages bite, maybe some profiteering; falling as surpluses start to appear as chains of activity are disrupted (in Jamaica’s case, we have a glut of agricultural goods because hotels are closed and many farmers find their main markets have disappeared).
–financial support (as activities collapse, the need for extraordinary additional resources is clear; nationally, central banks and finance ministries are bringing forward packages; internationally the International Monetary Fund is leading that charge).
–budgets (personal ones are getting tested as higher utility bills start to need paying, national ones as more spending and less revenue becomes reality).
I’m not sure if this has infected my teenage daughter, but she has started courses online in Advanced Placement Economics. Say what?!Another topic is change. Surviving the pandemic means a lot of changes come rushing at us all: out with the old, in with the new. Some of the old that’s gone (at least for now) is commuting. People have had to embrace working from home, with its attendant challenge of reorganizing life at home. Restrictions mean having to make do, and that tends to lead to resistance. We’ve seen that in many forms like the overpaid footballer in the UK having a sex party days before publicly urging people to abide by lockdown rules. But, masses have shown their dislike, either rallies in the USA and resistance to contact tracing plans in France, but also flocking to beaches and parks as weather improves in the northern hemisphere. This was flagrant in mid-March as Florida was flooded by spring break students and continued in many places, with Britons notable for seeming complacency. Videoconferencing is the new skill many are learning by doing. Grandma can’t wait till it’s the next Zoom session. But the ability to use a range of digital technology to communicate in real time, transmit live or recorded video images freely and simply has taken on a phenomenal new life. I ‘went’ to several churches yesterday and was ‘in’ several services, and I was still in my pajamas 🤔🙏🏾 ‘Attendance’ has multiplied. It’s not to everyone’s taste and the ranks of armchair directors have swollen, but go with it. Home delivery, moving goods to people, and kerb side pickups have boomed. In some ways, it’s back to the future and it may be here to stay for a while. For those who can benefit, online ordering and access have been saviours, including of sanity in the case of streaming TV. Vulnerability is the new watchword. Health risks now seem paramount. Jobs gone in a flash. Debts mounting. Coping as teachers without real training. Relatives, friendships and other relationships subjected to physical distancing. Taking nothing for granted starts to really mean something. Generosity is in vogue. Whether it’s food banks, or free access to previously paid-for services, giving something for nothing in return is helping many survive. Few are counting the costs so far, though how long some offers can be sad sustained is an open question.