Business leaders seek solutions for crippled economy

Repurposing bus and taxi drivers for deliveries is one idea under consideration.
Repurposing bus and taxi drivers for deliveries is one idea under consideration.

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Business leaders are exploring various solutions to keep people employed during the coronavirus crisis.

Using taxi and bus drivers to supplement home-delivery services is one idea being discussed in an effort to shift labour from impacted sections of the economy to areas where there are staff shortages.

Steve McIntosh, of CML Recruitment and a member of the Chamber of Commerce Council, said discussions were already taking place from last weekend over ways to remobilise temporarily redundant workers.

“There is an opportunity to relocate people from one sector of the economy to another, and I think that is something the government is already thinking about,” he said.

“Thinking about things like facilitating deliveries – getting your groceries delivered instead of running round the store with everyone else. The same for pharmacies.”

Steve McIntosh
Steve McIntosh

He acknowledged there would be some logistics to sort out, including hygiene protocols and business-licensing issues. 

But he believes government will remove barriers in order to keep people working so long as public safety can be guaranteed.

He likened the task facing Cayman’s leaders to building an aircraft in mid-air.

“My experience from Hurricane Ivan is that government can be extremely pragmatic in times of crisis, especially when the pragmatism is being applied to making sure Caymanians’ basic needs are met,” he said.

“I think the government will happily clear roadblocks if necessary to repurpose out-of-work Caymanians from one industry to another, and the Chamber of Commerce Council is working on plans to support this.”

For expats on hourly wages who have lost their jobs, he said it would likely make sense for them to go home, if practical, at least in the short term.

He believes government will help facilitate work-permit suspensions, if it helps businesses keep staff on standby, ready for the reopening of the island.

“If there are lay-offs and furloughs, hopefully government will allow businesses to suspend work permits so they can ramp up again once things return to normal,” he said.

McIntosh said the key job for government was to facilitate the transition to a temporary “new normal” and mitigate the worst impacts for those affected. The next big challenge will be to crank the economy back up for when the crisis is over.

“I think certain businesses can push pause in an orderly fashion, and people just have to accept that their standard of living is going to be reduced for a period of time,” he said.

He added that the primary focus for business and government leaders would be to make sure people’s basic needs are met. As long as everyone has housing, food, utilities and healthcare, which appears to be manageable, he said, Cayman would come through.

“For many, it will mean spending more time at home with family and getting on with their lives – it doesn’t mean we can’t get through it if our basic needs are met.”

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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