This opinion piece will certainly irritate most Mauritians who tend to find solace in focussing on only one side of any matter. To dare say that COVID-19 could be a blessing in disguise is ‘blasphemous’ and ‘sacrilegious’ as it deliberately ignores its negative impact on business.
1. Since the 1980’s, political, economic, social and cultural pundits have placed their faith in the basic tenets of neoliberalism (ultraliberalism): globalisation on the one hand and “less government” on the other. Globalisation, i.e., the free circulation of money and goods, has revealed its other face: the free circulation of viruses.
2. The neoliberal belief which says that the state should not interfere with economic matters, has simply dissolved into thin air. Instead of less government, we now need more government to fight diseases and subsidise economic activities.
3. Mixed economy (private and public involvement) has returned with a vengeance at planetary level. Regulation and more state control are now the order of the day.
BUSINESS AS USUAL OR CREATE NEW NORMAL?
With the rise of industrialisation and capitalism there has been a tendency to consider nature as a mass of inert objects at our disposal to be used, consumed and thrown away. The result has been a total destruction of nature leading to global burning and climate crisis. We have to learn to rebuild nature and live in harmony with it. What does this mean?
1. ECONOMIC REFORMS: An economy driven by cupidity and selfishness can never be sustainable. It will simply favour a minority but drive the majority below the poverty line. Profit by itself is not a problem if it is one of the measures of efficiency which should include social and ecological responsibility, not the ONLY one. A good mix of private and public enterprises supported by a strong cooperative movement is what we should aim at. Humanity must start to prize solidarity and sharing which is strongly prescribed by some religious texts.
2. FOOD SECURITY: We must grow what we eat and eat what we grow. This can be done. New home-grown staples (potato, sweet potato, grapefruit, cassava, corn, arrowroot) should eventually replace the existing imported ones (rice and wheat). The production of red meat should be discouraged and fish farming and free-range poultry farming encouraged. Food security also means a new food culture which can help us fight such pathologies as obesity and diabetes.
3. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: This should become an integral part of our national culture and for this to happen we must undertake a massive reform of our education sector which, at present, manufactures thousands of non-literates every year. Universal literacy and generalised IT go together like your ox and cart. Universal bilingual functional literacy (UBFL) can be achieved by a judicious use of our two creole languages, namely Mauritian Creole and English (another creole language).
4. A GREEN OUTLOOK: All activities must take into account their impact on nature. Fossil fuels must be banned.
If we want to face COVID-19 and other future pandemics, humanity must develop new attitudes towards MOTHER NATURE. It is now a question of survival, not one of choice. We have already done too much damage to nature.