Tourism and entertainment, which have taken a severe beating in the Caribbean from the coronavirus crisis, could eventually come to the aid of people globally after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, a senior official of an Inter-American Development Bank agency has said.
Chief Executive Officer of IDB Invest, James Scriven, said he expected a number of people to emerge from the crisis with “mental health issues”.
“I think it is important that we understand that this is not going to only be a financial and economic crisis. It is also going to be a mental health crisis,” he told a webinar session on Monday where officials looked at the topic Coronavirus and the Caribbean: The Economic Implications and Options for the Caribbean.
Scriven said: “People are not used to what we are going through – being confined to their own houses day and night in lock-down periods. So I do think the psychological and mental health issues are going to arise. For all intents and purposes, I think the Caribbean can play a big leading role to the world, specifically to tourism [and] Reggae music is going to play a big role in putting a smile on people’s face.
“I would not underestimate the importance of a smile in the context of what we are going through, and I do think that the Caribbean has a big competitive advantage there.”
For Therese Turner-Jones, general manager of the hemispheric development bank’s Caribbean department, the crisis presents an opportunity for businesses to invest more in developing and using more technology to conduct business.
“This is also a moment for all governments in the Caribbean to take a look at how we do business and how we deliver services to the general public,” she said.
While some are now forced to work from home, she voiced concern that most people are simply not ready.
Turner-Jones said: “We know that many public entities don’t have that facility because we are not ready for it. So here are opportunities for companies who work in the digital field who can help institutions deal with this, here is an opportunity to help those businesses become more modern and to use digital platforms.
“If I were to grade the region on a scale of one to ten in terms of our readiness, we are barely a five.”
But the Jamaican economist said she was also concerned that despite the high level of mobile penetration in the region several countries were still not able to facilitate e-learning.
She said: “I want to say one area that concerns me a lot is what is happening with education because we know that there are some schools that can provide online learning very quickly and easily, but imagine there are public schools all over, and I use Jamaica as an example, there are some schools that do not have online learning,” she said.
“Children don’t have tablets and they don’t have access to data, their homes are not equipped with internet access, so I worry about those children who do not have access to education at this time.”
Calling on firms to come forward with solutions to help the Caribbean, Turner-Jones said she believed that a post-COVID-19 region will rely more on fintech services given that some countries would have to now put systems in place to allow more people to access financial services during the pandemic. (MM)
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