Reopening the economy is welcome, economist Dr Roger Hosein said, especially as the manufacturing and construction sectors are expected to come back online Thursday after an eight-week lockdown to mitigate the spread of covid19.
But, he added, this will only take the country back to the position it was in February 2020.
“What policymakers will now have to (decide) is whether or not February 2020 is comfortable in relation to what we would like to achieve.”
According to some sources, he said, the unemployment rate during lockdown, was about 15 per cent, versus 4.8 per cent in February.
“Any reasoned policymaker would prefer an economy with 4.8 per cent unemployment as compared to 15 per cent unemployment but let us not forget that February 2020 was perhaps the lowest level of economic activity since 2014. And it was characterised also by a declining labour force participation rate, declining import cover rations, a declining stock of reserves and a high murder level so the decision has to be in two phases: first, to take us back to where we were, which is significantly better than where we are now, and second, to move us from February 2020 to a more golden point of economic activity, which is where the economic recovery team should be taking us.”
TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce CEO Gabriel Faria also agreed that reopening tomorrow was beneficial.
“Many of the companies selected to reopen are very happy and are looking forward to tomorrow. And they are putting necessary protocols and systems in place to ensure they heed obligations and health guidelines, and so on from the Ministry of Health and international best practice for their respective sectors.”
The chamber has also made sure to provide its members with those guidelines.
The country’s largest business chamber has among its members, companies in construction, manufacturing, laundry and auto repair and services, he said – every sector now given the green light under the public health ordinance to restart operations Thursday.
“We are confident they will operate responsibly. We also recognise that opening businesses is not the endgame. It is a prerequisite to restarting the economy and we look forward to the report from the roadmap to recovery team.”
The chamber was “anxiously looking forward” to that report, he said because it will give a level of confidence to the population, which will, in turn, help spur economic activity.
“A number of sectors are hopeful that they get more concrete information about when they can open. They want clarity (about the rollout of Government’s phased reopening).”
He said the chamber did its own covid19 risk versus mitigation analysis and found that while there are some sectors with low risk and can mitigate well, there are some that might be high risk that can also mitigate well.
A nightclub, for example, might be high risk and difficult to mitigate, but a cinema might be able to mitigate better in terms of seating arrangements, for example. Accounting firms, however, which are low risk and easy to mitigate are not yet allowed to reopen.
“All businesses can contribute to the economy and as we go through this process to accelerate (reopening), we do so responsibly to get the country back to work.”