Date: March 11th, 2020
At the onset of the coronavirus, FFOS had publicly called for a national consultation to discuss the need for a coordinated national preparedness and emergency response plan including mitigation and contingency planning so as to minimize the risk and/or impact of this national threat. In 6 weeks, there has been none, and the entire nation is being left to panic in the dark!
The public is yet to be informed of the findings of the selective “special invitation” national stakeholders meeting held on 12th February 2020 which was hosted by the Ministry of Health to address the local response to the Coronavirus. Other than the daily texts messages informing citizens how to protect themselves from the coronavirus, or PM Rowley lamenting on the potential economic impact due to our already high import bill, we have not heard from our Leaders any socio-economic emergency response plan! Is this wise?
Shouldn’t civil society at least be entitled to be heard? What are the mitigation measures being implemented to minimize the impact on our workers, our mortgage and loan debtors, our small vulnerable businesses, our taxi drivers …… what exactly is the national plan? Public health is not the only factor being threatened. For instance, if our citizens contract the virus, there may be the need for a shutdown of schools or even entire towns as seen in other infected countries. Goods, leisure and service supply businesses will be crippled as well save an except for those supplying items of necessity such as gas, food, medicines and cleaning agents.
All other businesses will more than likely suffer the consequence of almost zero patronage. Therefore, should we not also consider for discussion on how to minimize the impact of impending national threat so we could have a synchronized response?
Can we discuss
1. A national emergency plan with supporting legislation to command ALL employers to ensure that workers are paid at least 50% percentage or their full salary so as to minimize their domestic economic crisis and to ensure employees are in a financially stable position to support themselves during the national shutdown.
2. A plan whereby all Banks suspend all interest and mortgage payments on all loans for the duration of the potential national shut down,
3. That a fund should be established to assist families in need during this national emergency,
4. That all Landlords should extend the due date of all rents.
This is like a great war of life and death that we are entering. During times of national crisis, our citizens depend on our government to lead us with courage and wisdom. Instead, we are being treated to what appears to be blindness, silence and secrecy. If we continue to avoid a participatory and humanitarian approach in which all citizens and business entities are encouraged to come together in defence of each other, we will all be courting an even greater disaster of inhumanity and callousness in a time of great suffering.