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There's no sense in splitting health and the economy

There's no sense in splitting health and the economy

Wednesday 06 May 2020

There's no sense in splitting health and the economy


The covid-19 crisis has attacked Jersey's economy and health system simultaneously. Recovery seems to be a balance between allowing businesses to trade again, while not causing an unmanageable spike in virus patients.

There is little doubt that one will lead to the other. But without businesses being active, people will lose their jobs and livelihoods, which creates its own set of health problems.

In the next in our series of articles on Jersey's economic recovery, Cooper & Co owner David Warr argues that splitting the needs of our health, and our work, is a false choice...

"The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global activity has been truly catastrophic and has already upended so much of what we once described as 'normal.' The scale is so immense that in many ways it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. The future has never looked more uncertain and so I’ll endeavour to relate this 'thing' we are all experiencing to something a little more familiar: the metaphorical 3-legged stool. 

For the purposes of this article, you might label the three legs as People, Planet and Profit. What I want to demonstrate is that if just for a moment we don’t maintain all of these legs with equal energy, the stool collapses and our way of life will be destroyed. 

The 'leg' uppermost in our mind at the moment is People. We have to keep the most vulnerable in our society safe. It’s become abundantly clear that up to now we haven’t been doing that very well. The need to support our health workers throughout society will rightly become a major strategic plan in future Government policy.

Does the Nightingale wing of the hospital actually give us the breathing space to get on and build a new hospital that has been so long in the planning? A reminder of the famous line “never waste a good crisis."

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 Pictured: Jersey's Nightingale hospital will soon be open.

The Planet or second leg is also a vital element to the stability of this stool. Climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it, has been creeping up on us for decades now. Significant declines in flora and fauna and increasing pressure on the earth’s natural resources as we try to accommodate the needs of 9 billion people means that more than ever we have to re-think the way in which we consume and replenish these finite resources. Jersey is in an extraordinary position to lead the way and surely now, more than ever, a key strategic plank has to be based around environmental issues. It is a clear and obvious opportunity to diversify our economy.

The significance of Profit, or the third leg of our stool, has also become very apparent in these extraordinary times. Right now, many good businesses in this Island are on life support. Without co-funding of wages, bank support, and pushing bills down the road, many businesses would have already collapsed. Without this support the patient (business) would be dead, and thousands of people unemployed. The pressure on Social security would be even greater than it is now.

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Pictured: thousands of private sector employees are now having their salaries part-paid by the government. 

But it is economic activity that helps fund our pensions, social security, healthcare and public services such as street cleansing, and road maintenance. If businesses cannot trade profitably, then once again our stool collapses. We now need to move from life support into intensive care. That will almost certainly mean more Government support in the short term. As with anyone in intensive care, the length of stay very much depends upon the speed with which the body recovers.

It takes time and patience is required. A very clear strategy that is targeted, timely and temporary is required to ensure that as many businesses as possible survive the pandemic and come out the other side fitter and healthier, if our 'new normal' is to be sustained.

We all have a part to play and if the pandemic has taught us anything, I would suggest it’s made us appreciate how much we all need each other, crisis or no crisis.

READ MORE on Jersey's covid-19 recovery...

Kevin Keen: Investing in Jersey - Tell Helier!

Kevin Keen: Want the economy to recover? Buy local!

Luke Smith: We need financial patience, not pain

Eliot Lincoln: Time for government to help businesses get paid

David Warr: View from the business frontline - Cooper & Co

Andrew Hosegood: Down here in the bay...

James Filleul:  Share the plan for lockdown end

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