People are uncertain these days. The economy is in decline. Solutions to lift it up will be slow, painful and might not work. The pandemic might take turns that no one can predict (though we all hope not). In such distressing circumstances, selfishness easily emerges in people and in businesses. Far too many are ready to step on the bodies of others, just to get to the lifeboats first. To avoid the stampede of self-preservation, we all must understand that everything is connected.

The money needed to be paid to others must come from others who don’t have money because they are waiting for payment from others who are also unpaid. It sounds convoluted, but it is the reality we are in.

We have seen retrenchments increasing because businesses with fewer/no customers cannot pay salaries. There are no customers because of the lockdown (Stage 1) and the recently ended Stage 2 of the State of Emergency rules. Many people working in the private sector now have half-pay, late pay or no pay. They must cut back on consumption. Without the insertion of new money, nothing will change.

The Labour Ministry’s efforts should be to make sure that unscrupulous and greedy employers don’t exacerbate the problem by trenching more workers than needed. They must guarantee that all legal rights for dismissed workers are adhered to. Former workers must receive first consideration for new jobs once/if things begin to ease up. These are do-able parameters.

Furniture stores to whom people make payments via six or 12-month contracts for goods are demanding full payments each month. They are repossessing the used products. To what end? People with less/no income cannot make the same timely payments. Most did not plan for this unexpected situation, but here we are. Isn’t it better to make agreements for temporary payment suspension or half or quarter payments? Is the win-win solution rather than the hammer on the head?

We are impatient with demands from some sectors and businesses for individual bailouts. Who said one business over another should not feel the pinch of this mutually debilitating national situation? We are all in this sinking boat together. We must all do what we can to bail water until we reach the shore.

Some businesses will fail – that is a fact. Most will downsize to try to survive for longer (some still will not make it). Others will change how they do business or change the products they sell. Change is coming for all of us. Those selfishly wishing government to pay bailout money only for them need a reality check.

Civil servants must feel this bite as well.

As the private sector contracts, the government will too. Finance Minister Iipumbu Shiimi hinted at this eventuality. The high level of the national debt is unsustainable. People do not understand the reality of that debt and deficit; they see it as something that doesn’t affect their lives. They are wrong.

Civil servants must know that the monthly salaries they are receiving are on credit. That credit is obtained from the future blood and sweat of our children and grandchildren. There can be no growth, no government services, no infrastructure upgrades, no school renovations, no new school books, no needed roads, rural electrification and no water services if the government is paying almost all that it earns to service the national debt.

The banks intend to come out of this with no losses. They are in pursuit of their profit margin and dividend projections for their foreign shareholders. They will shamelessly get their pound of flesh from a public that is struggling to put food on the table. The highly-publicized COVID-19 deferral plans were largely a sham, only available for a select few and with strings attached that make the burden worse.

We are concerned when we hear people demand to pay no rent for their houses and flats or business locations for the next several months. If that happens, how can the property owners pay their house bonds? It is all connected.

Many have invested, for example, their retirement funds in buying properties that they rent for income. They pay the bank bond, taxes and insurance with the rent and live on what remains. The rent they receive is not a luxury; it is a necessary monthly income. Why don’t both sides look at the minimums of what is needed and see if there is a middle ground on a temporary, transparent basis? Otherwise, evictions must start.

What about universities that are demanding full payment of fees, though courses are online? Parents that used to assist their family members with education, no longer have those funds. NSFAF has a new budget (on paper) but how much of those funds will translate to money in the bank. More importantly, when will those funds will be deposited? How universities demand payment before NSFAF can disburse money?

It is all connected. What money is owed to you, must come from someone who is waiting for payment from someone. And yet, no new money is flowing. Anyone thinking they should not suffer while everyone else is under pressure needs to step back, get their selfishness in check and think hard about a new plan.