I do not envy the Government’s position during this pandemic when the decisions it makes can sometimes be seen as a case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.
Several sectors of the economy are crying out for assistance. The construction industry is lamenting the shortage of foreign workers, which is delaying ongoing projects.
The retail sector is asking for a circuit breaker so that retailers can receive financial assistance, like last year.
Many food and beverage outlets are suffering because they can’t have dine-in customers. Taxi drivers are seeing fewer commuters.
Ultimately, I feel that the Government’s duty should not be to ensure all businesses remain viable, but to make sure that there is a shelter over everyone’s head and food on the table.
No one knows how long the pandemic will drag on for.
If more aid measures are needed, I feel that money should not go directly into people’s pockets.
Instead, food and grocery vouchers should be distributed based on household size and not housing type.
Measures taken should ensure that all will still have a roof over their heads and no one goes hungry.
Last year’s over-generous financial aid measures have been criticised by some as being unequally distributed.
There are anecdotal accounts of self-employed persons staying with their parents in larger properties who did not receive any financial assistance.
Yet we hear there were also other self-employed persons whose households received more than $10,000 from the Government and used the money to buy new furniture and household appliances.
The Government should be more prudent this time round and focus its financial assistance on the healthcare sector and public health measures such as vaccination, swabbing, stay-home notice or quarantine facilities, and the deployment of safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers.
All these do not come cheap.
Let us all do our part, tighten our belts, get vaccinated and stay safe.
David Fong Chee Hong