Mass panic worse than COVID-19

Mar 19,2020 -JORDAN TIMES – Shehab Al Makahleh

The whole world is in a state of anxiety. The COVID-19 panic has been a result of the case of vagueness of the nature of the disease and how to contain it rather than how to cure patients who have fallen ill with this virus. The worst nightmare is not the COVID-19, but rather panic buying and the selfishness of people that would make it hard to tackle the pandemic.

In the past few days, just looking at people in various communities in the West and in the Middle East, one would realise that people, regardless of their culture, and mindset or belief, share one thing: panic buying. When many of them rushed to malls and supermarkets to buy masks, food and other necessary materials, and stockpile them, by then we have moved from the state of countering a virus to a state of containing it and countering consumer behaviours from harming, if not destroying, the community with selfishness and greediness.

For many, the ramifications on the Jordanian economy are debilitating and enervating. No one can say that the Jordanian economy is doing fine; in fact, it is not, even before the new visitor has showed up. We have been witnessing a slow-down in our economy, aggravated by the dislocations and contractions incurred by the virus.

There is an 80 per cent chance forecast of a worldwide largescale depression worse than that which hit the world in 2008, reminding us of the Great Depression of 1929-1933 that would lead to the collapse of major financial markets which lead to higher states of unemployment, loss of income, social volatility, social hurly-burlies, political turbulences, depletion of the middle class, dearth of security and so forth.

Jordan should better manage the pandemic with economic plan to the crisis without expecting help from other countries by stimulating the economy and emphasising private sector, especially SMEs, continue working without fearing any legal penalties due to late payments and bouncing cheques, as the whole economy is suffering, bearing in mind that the G-20 countries had set budgets to fund their SMEs and their staff members to keep them running as they provide more than 70 per cent of the overall jobs in these states.

It is known that Jordan is not in an enviable position to use its reserves or to resort to domestic lending; yet, it is time for a concerted effort that the private sector and the big businesses support the community and share the responsibility hand in hand with the government. We are not at a stage of wait and see. All financial resources should be pumped in their proper channels without leakages, i.e. corruption, that deprives the public from their rights of state funds and subsidies.

Not only for the sake of countering COVID-19, but also for the sake of managing an economy which is under heavy burdens, the government should hire clean hands that can handle this situation, which is highly critical. The questions that anyone would raise include amongst others: Would the government pay for those who lose their jobs? For those whose shops will be closed? Will it introduce discounts on energy tariffs not only because of COVID-19 but also because of the tangible drop in oil prices worldwide? Will bills due to the government be postponed until further notice as other world governments announced?

The government is advised to keep monitoring basic moribund economic and declining financial developments in order to act because this will affect the people who work in SMEs, keeping in mind that the ordinary people should be a top priority and their needs are a must to meet, as all sectors are badly affected. The government has to bring down the prices of essential goods and services, including water, electricity and telecommunication services.

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