Relishing the new post-COVID-19 Jamaica

Editorial

Relishing the new post-COVID-19 Jamaica

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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As a new Jamaica emerges from COVID-19 we cannot stress enough the importance of our various leaders developing a vision of how their different sectors will fit into the new paradigm to ensure their viability.

Anyone who thinks that Jamaica is going to merely pick up where we left off prior to COVID-19 will become irrelevant. The old Jamaica, much like how the United States changed and became a virtual security unit — starting with the aviation industry — after the 9/11 terror attacks, will undergo a transformation never before seen.

Fortunately, many of these changes will make us so much better off because our country was long due for a make-over in critical areas such as managing production, education, agricultural marketing, and consumer habits, among others.

For example, it is already becoming clear that not everyone needs to work from an office and, indeed, the post-COVID-19 office can be anywhere in the world where there is a laptop and Internet access.

The only people who won't be able to come to grips with this are those who place greater emphasis on managing people over managing production and productivity and are comfortable being constrained within a 9:00 am to 5:00 pm space. They equate seeing people in front of them with ensuring high productivity.

Some of the obvious advantages of having staff who can work from home, where possible, include reduced overheads in the form of electricity, especially air conditioning; water; stationery; renewal of furniture; and building maintenance.

There will be less commuting between home and work, which eases traffic congestion and reduces lost man-hours; cuts down on gasoline usage; allows for greater supervision of young children at home; and, again, spurs greater productivity.

Workplace costs are set to rise with new expenditure on extensive sanitisation programme, social distancing, temperature checking, and provision of face masks which will be with us for the foreseeable future because the novel coronavirus will be around for a very long time, if the experts are to be believed.

For agriculture, the shutdown of hotels, restaurants, food processing plants, and schools — some of the biggest consumers of farm products — has demonstrated the overriding need for expanded markets.

The mushrooming of farmers' markets, mostly in the urban areas of the country, provided important but still limited means of offloading agricultural produce by getting it to consumers in their communities.

Post-COVID-19, agricultural production has to be ramped up for the export market. We agree with Jampro's President Diane Edwards, who told a virtual town hall meeting last week that while markets were available and the demands great, supplies were limited.

Importantly, Ms Edwards said there was no shortage of land for cultivation, quoting World Bank figures showing that with 41 per cent of the country's land being arable, only 11 per cent is currently under cultivation.

So much for those who are arguing — and rather foolishly at that — against the planned multi-faceted Bernard Lodge development in St Catherine, with modern farming practices as part of its core.

We have only touched on two areas. But if one is optimistic, the new post-COVID-19 Jamaica will be an exciting and enticing prospect.


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