Striving To Keep The Economy Afloat!

As the world battles under the yoke of the new coronavirus, call it Covid-19, that is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods across the globe, Cameroon’s Head of State believes concerted efforts are more than ever needed for the economy to remain buoyant after all. In his unprecedented address to his fellow compatriots on Tuesday May 19, 2020 on the eve of the 48th National Day, President Paul Biya said already bad effects of the dreaded pandemic could even be catastrophic on the national economy if serious care is not taken and urgently too. 
Resources are scarce amidst growing expenditures, job creation and wealth generation are almost at their lowest ebb. The bitter reality is that many are either being sent on technical leave, some subjected to pay cuts and others out rightly losing scarce jobs. The situation could even get worse as the virus; said to be far from nearing its end, rages on. 
Drawing the population’s attention to the negative consequences of the pandemic on the local economy, the Head of State said, “Today, we are facing new challenges resulting from the collapse of stocks, falling commodity prices and unexpected sharp decline in trade.” 
It is common knowledge that the strength of any economy lies on these and once the economic indicators are plummeting like now, there is every reason to take precaution. When national, regional and global stocks are witnessing a free fall as is the case now, investments are greatly threatened and any economy that doesn’t invest tends to finish up what was already kept as reserves. With falling commodity prices and a decline in trade owing to the closure of frontiers in an attempt to contain the propagation of the virus, the national economy irresistibly slows.  Worse still, the hitherto already negative trade balance will no doubt deteriorate given that even in the worse of scenarios, the State is bound to spend the limited resources on the import of essential items to safe human life. 
Even loans that are contracted at this period are not destined to any productive sector of the economy. They are meant to fight against the pandemic; call them consumption credits, but must be refunded at one point. Added to the list of expenditures is the Head of State’s multifaceted decision to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the national economy. For instance, his choice to dish out FCFA 25 billion to assist companies hardest hit by the crisis, the decision to curtail certain taxes as well as augment family allowances eat deep into the already scarce State resources. Several provisions of the 2020 State budget will not be met and the State is bound to review the budget. Dicey situations requiring robust actions!  
The visibly bleak picture explains why President Paul Biya told his compatriots that, “we have to return subsequently to the path of growth, while ensuring that jobs are preserved as much as possible during this period of uncertainty and difficulty.” The gravity of the problem pushed Mr Biya to enjoin his government to get down to work. “I urge the government to continue to be mobilised as it has been doing since the outbreak of the health crisis. In an unprecedented social context, it should, in particular, be resourceful and inventive to maintain our financial balances, contain the rate of inflation, ensure the continuity of public service especially in the educational sector and regulate economic activity so as to safeguard social stability and peace.” Striking a balance under such a context is visibly a challenging task but worth surmounting if lives and livelihoods must be rescued during and after the health crisis.   
The government’s ingenuity which the Head of State underlined in his speech no doubt requires well-coordinated action from all and sundry. Room should not be given for grandstanding or better still, self-aggrandisement here. Success in safeguarding irreplaceable human lives and maintaining the national economy above the gloomy waters should be that of the entire population. Ensuring that people eat to their fill and that shylock business people do not hide behind the pandemic to feed fat on the poor population could for instance be the base for any sustainable action. Stepping up agricultural production wherein the country has comparative advantage within the sub-region could as well be a buffer to the local economy.                                                                                                 
 

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