Passing the buck on paying for COVID

All sectors of society and the economy seem to selfishly nurse the expectation that someone else will foot their part of the pandemic bill. They don’t get it that ALL of us will feel the pain one way or another.

Schools are forcing cash-strapped parents to pay full tuition and fees from March through June. And yet, there were no face-to-face courses offered during that time. Parents are demanding to not pay for classes not given.

Private schools are using their usual punish-the-kids extortion tactic to force parents to comply. They don’t want to eat any of the losses involved with the lockdown and state of emergency; they want to pass the buck to the parents.

The government is demanding that people, by law go into quarantine in certain circumstances. This is correct under the medical emergency. And yet, the government proclamation demands that people mandated to quarantine must pay for it.

These people did not ask for quarantine. They cannot shop around for better prices and have no control over what services are provided during the quarantine that they must pay for. (Is this even legal?)

The government has no money to finance the projected amount of quarantine needed. They are forced to be creative to spread the pain to someone else (i.e. the public).

Medical insurance companies are, as expected, quiet. Their current regulations, definitions, and actuary tables are likely unclear on something as unique as this. Claims for quarantine refund costs would decrease their profits and the level of claims is unpredictable. Insurance companies will resist being drawn into this kind of coverage. Those placed in quarantine and billed, who have insurance, should sue to let the courts clarify the matter.

Restaurants are now able to re-open and welcome customers. They must still decrease their customer numbers due to social spacing. So, they raise prices to make up some of the cost. Instead of luring more people to their tables with lower-priced food packages, they grab what they can from the few who can still afford to eat out.

Banks made huge noises about offering ‘relief’ for clients suffering under the impacts of the lockdown. The small print on the agreements showed that this ‘relief’ was smoke-and-mirrors. The banks are still pursuing their profit margins in the middle of a country’s economic collapse.

Banks with billions in profits last year did not cancel bank fees. They did not cancel loan repayments owed during the lockdown (just for a month!) or extend overdrafts, revolving credit limits or credit card limits. They did not extend operating hours so people could socially space by banking at off-times. Instead, they bought media ads and gave out sacks of food (once-off). Some banks offered soothing euphemisms but passed the buck on absorbing the real costs of the pandemic to their clients.

Tourism operations devastated by the total collapse of their sector have not significantly decreased their prices. This could have encouraged more domestic tourists. Rather, they increased their rates in some cases or they remained the same. Again they passed on the cost of the pandemic to their clients (thereby chasing potential clients away).

There is a growing sentiment amongst segments of Namibian society that some in the tourism industry would have no problem opening the borders and receiving anyone from anywhere (no quarantine!). Whether these inbound tourists carry the disease into Namibia is a secondary consideration. Their ability to pay is the primary concern.

Taxis were forced by social spacing requirements to lower the number of people they carry. They successfully lobbied for a temporary increase in taxi fares to supposedly cover their losses. The program was meant to pass the costs of the pandemic on someone else (i.e. the public).

There is no one who will be able to walk away from COVID-19’s devastation on the Namibian economy intact.

Passing the pandemic financing buck cannot go on. The solution is to seek balance, baton down the hatches, and for everyone to be prepared to take on their portion of the pain.

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