COVID-19 changed everything. From the way we communicate, shop, eat, learn, and even walk around the neighborhood, our norms have been flipped upside down. At first, we were wondering when life would go back to normal. Now, we’re questioning what our new normal will be.
With countries around the world reaching unprecedented levels of debt and a recession looming on the horizon, it’s going to take a lot more than hopeful words and drops of capital in the deficit bucket to recover from this pandemic.
But recover we must, because this economic crisis isn’t going to just work itself out. To achieve global economic recovery, governments, institutions, companies, and citizens of planet Earth will need to be strategic about decisions big and small for the foreseeable future. However, the course isn’t set in stone. Governments and leaders have no modern precedent to influence their decisions—and that means they have to create the wheel. The world can rescue itself, and it starts with a few basic strategies.
Accept Social Distancing as a Way of Life
Countries, states, and cities around the world have instituted social distancing laws to save lives and livelihoods. They’re striving to achieve the perfect balance between protecting lives and protecting the economy—2 seemingly separate goals that are undeniably connected.
According to experts, social distancing is non-negotiable if we want to save lives (and it needs to continue a lot longer than we expect). However, each passing day of lost revenue, accrued interest, and stockpiling bills makes it harder for businesses to rally—now or later.
For the global economy to recover, companies big and small need to accept social distancing as a potential long-term way of life. Social distancing can no longer be a challenge to outlast—it needs to become a hurdle to overcome. Governments have thrown lifeboats by providing loans, grants, tax extensions, and more (though, arguably not enough), but now businesses must learn to adapt and paddle rather than wait and sink. To thrive (rather than survive), businesses must:
- Create a digital presence
- Learn to stretch their money
- Rebuild from the ground up
- Get creative to keep doors open
- Avoid common economic crisis mistakes
- Continue to spend on marketing
Summer’s sunshine and warm temperatures may provide relief in the battle against COVID-19, but it might not. We can’t hold on to some arbitrary date for reprieve—governments, businesses, and citizens around the world need to act and prepare for a social-distanced economy that could last months or even years longer.
Be Flexible and Adaptable
Governments, businesses, and citizens will need to become resilient and adaptable to cope with the changes COVID-19 demands. Our governments and leaders don’t have a playbook for dealing with this crisis. Decisions will be made too early, too late, and rarely on time as they emerge to align with new information, unfolding crises, and developing science.
However, that’s not something we can change. What we can change is how we respond. To adapt, businesses and individuals will need to be flexible, creative, patient, and prepared. They’ll need Plans A, B, C, and D, and they’ll need to be ready to throw them all out the door and start from scratch.
No, it’s not going to be easy, but the world’s never dealt with a pandemic like this. There’s going to be guessing, educated guessing, and much trial and error—and that’s the way we all move forward.
Keep Spending in the Right Places
To keep the market economy flowing, jobs need to be retained, vendors need to be paid, tenants need to make rent, and borrowers need to avoid default. The government has a variety of levers they can pull to manipulate and control the economy:
- Provide more working capital (in the form of loans and grants) to businesses in need
- Freeze short-term fiscal, parafiscal, and social security payments
- Revaluate taxes and tax exemptions
But it’s not just the job of the government—this responsibility falls on the shoulders of everyone. Banks and alternative lenders can continue lending cash to companies in need. Companies can build alternative business models to keep workers employed and revenue flowing. Consumers can shop local and support small businesses.
Everyone has a part to play, and if each key player keeps spending, money can continue to circulate enough to stimulate the economy.
Accelerate Crisis Recovery
The CARES Act provided over $150 billion to the public health sector. Capital is being used to put out fires, provide adequate testing, protect workers, and aid in research and development of a vaccine, but it clearly was not enough.
To return to any sense of global normality, the world needs a vaccine. But a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And even then, that’d be very quick to develop a reliable vaccine. In order to save lives and “reopen” the worldwide economy, scientists may need to be allowed to take shortcuts:
- Partner with the US Food and Drug Administration to alleviate recruitment constraints to find healthy volunteers
- Equip factories and facilities to produce vaccines at scale as soon as possible
- Receive additional financing to continue researching and developing a better vaccine for not only COVID-19 but the next coronavirus
Governments, in conjunction with businesses, can get creative to help accelerate recovery:
- Lift red tape at scale to help businesses reopen and grow
- Readjust labor regulations to empower businesses to operate under flexible models and schedules
- Invest capital in building hospitals, schools, and other social projects
We’ll Get Better Soon
In the lyrics of Taylor Swift: “Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon, ’cause you have to…this won’t go back to normal, if it ever was.”
The world’s a different place now, and it’s going to forever be changed because of this pandemic. It’s your job, our job, and everyone’s job to look forward and rescue ourselves. If the world’s governments, businesses, societies, and people make the right decisions now, our economy can recover, and we can get better soon. We have to.