We are currently faced with one of the biggest challenges of our time – a health pandemic resulting from the spread of the corona virus across most parts of the world. The challenge is complex involving the spread of a disease for which currently have no vaccines; the magnitude of it; limited resources to deal with it in terms of hospital beds, equipment and staff; with the knowledge that whilst most will hopefully recover, some will sadly pass on. It’s more complex than this though, it’s impractical for work, education, community and social activities to continue as normal without risking the increase of the spread of the disease, most especially to those with more vulnerable immune systems. As such, as is the case in Britain things have been increasing shutting down with people working from home where ever possible; a call for social distancing and as such a marked reduction in social activities in relation to visiting restaurants, bars etc. This in term comes with risks of isolation, increased problems with mental health and concerns in so many other areas unimagined in this complex and integrated system that we live in.
One of the key things on the forefront of many minds within the British Government as I would venture to say, Governments across the world is the economic impact.
The economic system is complex and the Government needs to look at different facets from the overall British economy – preventing it’s collapse and putting it in the best position to recover; the various sectors/industries within it and how each is affected from manufacturing to entertainment to hospitality to care to professional services and so on and so forth. All impacted in different ways, with different segments within each impacted differently. Different sizes of organisations impacted differently. Just like some individuals have different immune systems to combat the virus, organisations have different financial positions to keep their businesses running – some with products and services more essential now than ever before; some better able to hold onto staff then others – some with such low cashflow margins that there was already a question as to how they were going to cover costs and pay staff at the end of the month without the additional challenges or loses caused by the current circumstances.
The Government has announced several policies that help both businesses and individuals, however, I believe there is still a fair amount that needs to be done at a procedural level to determine how they will actually work in practical terms. For instance, loans for businesses have been announced and employers have been urged to keep staff on with this support in mind. However, I don’t believe businesses yet know what the interest rates or terms of the loans will be. For any business, most especially those with limited resources, will it be practical to pay staff while they are not providing products or services to yield a financial return on the basis of a loan?
Then it comes to individuals, a fair number may be to work from home for a period, though in time business focuses may need to adjusted as roles and responsibilities. A number of people can’t effectively work from home on the basis of the current roles.
The government is trying to put measures in place to support people such as sick pay for time off and universal basic income. Aside from the fact that a number of those most likely to be affected such as those in low employment; insecure jobs and the self employed may not be covered, the benefits offered are very low – not enough to live on.
Rent freezes and mortgage holidays are after policies being put in place to help. Payments will still need to be paid at a late date, meaning that a number of people that are already living from pay cheque to pay cheque will come out of this in debt, assuming they weren’t already in debt. That aside it’s likely that not everyone with a mortgage will be given a mortgage holiday by their bank. I’ve just read a post by someone stating that speaking to his bank, he has found that the mortgage holiday does not apply if you don’t have a perfect payment history. This may not be the case with all banks, however, where it exists, it’s most likely to apply to people in low employment, insecure jobs, the self employed etc
All of these challenges that exists regardless of the current efforts being made by Government, mean that there are businesses that are more likely to open when they really shouldn’t; and individuals more likely to go out to work, taking the risk of catching and spreading the virus when they really should be staying at home. Further increasing the risk of spreading the disease and prolonging the pandemic.
So – imagine, what if money was no issue, not only would people be less inclined to take unnecessary risks; instead of terminating contracts of employs that they cannot afford – even with a loan; where necessary, unpaid leave could be applied. Employees who can’t work from home could find other meaningful things to do with their time – perhaps doing other meaningful things that they’ve always wanted to do. With people feeling able to support others within the community with their time without feeling worried or stressed by finances. Ultimately, in addition to us being better able to slow down the pandemic, it would create for a happier, healthier and ultimately more productive nation in the long run.
I’m not talking about a pipedream, but something that could be made a reality if everyone was universal basic income, defined by former American Presidential Candidate, Andrew Yang, as a Freedom Dividend. (Ref: https://freedom-dividend.com/)
It’s interesting that this is an idea that is gathering moment, with 170 MPs having signed a letter, requesting that the Treasurer implements such a Dividend during the pandemic.
There’s no better time than the present to trial this, besides I believe that adding this to the other measures may not be cheap in the short term, but added to the other measure the government has announced will have a deep far reaching impact and safe the government from having to constantly worry about who may have been left out with the measures that have been put in place to date. It won’t solve every problem, but it will go a long way and if anyone believes they don’t need the fund, they can always return it.
Developing a Mosaic World
#CoronaVirus #Pandemic #UniversalBasicIncome