An upside down world.

It has been a couple of months since my last posting.  I have moved onto my shore based home, the choice of the Admiral.  Sailor dog and I have adapted well and in the initial weeks we were still going back to Micasa on a daily basis.  I, to work on canvas jobs and sail repairs at the marina while the sailor dog rests in her familiar floating home.  That was before the “Circuit Breaker” – Singapore’s version of a lockdown and social distancing.

There is a new terror in town and around the world. Covid-19! This post will be mostly around my thoughts regarding Mr. Covid and the thereafter.

I must admit that I have been a little ignorant of the spread of this disease in the initial weeks.  I was on a flight back to visit my mum in Sabah, Malaysia when I noticed that almost everyone on the flight was wearing a face mask except me and a few others.  This was on 20th January. A few days later I heard about the lockdown of Wuhan City and this was during the festive season of Chinese New Year. It is the equivalent of locking down millions of people during Christmas or ThanksGiving.  There was so much misinformation on social media that it is hard to know what is true or otherwise. Having worked in China for more than a year, I still do have friends and ex-associates there. Through them and a few reliable media sources, I could grasp the scale and magnitude of their lockdown.  Effectively the entire country came to a grinding halt. This disease was such a big deal that it was worth sacrificing the all important economic growth, in the eyes of the Chinese Government. I sat up and took notice!

Like many I looked on in disbelief.  Looking at the statistics, especially the relatively low mortality rate, I failed too to recognise the significance and danger of exponential growth.  A concept that exists only in mathematics and physics text books and we do not really recognise examples of it, in real life. Those who have been in China for more than brief visits would have seen their ability in building mega infrastructure projects in record time.  This capability was put to use in building fully equipped temporary hospitals to deal with the rapidly increasing number of new infection cases each day.

By now, the end of April, every corner of the world has seen the spread of this disease ranging from severe to mild to non-existence. On the last, there is either no one living in those areas or there hasn’t been testing done. We have learnt new terms – “social distancing”, “lockdown”, “flattening of the curve”, “black swan event”, “community transmission”, “herd immunity” etc, etc.

We would have seen the best and the worst of humanity during this period and what is scary is the amount of uncertainty ahead.  We have not had such an occurrence in recent times. Each one of us would have many unanswered questions.

Here in Singapore, where I live, the city state has been going about life as usual with minor adaptation of social distancing despite of double digits new infections each day, in the initial stage. It wasn’t until the second week of April that we saw a spike in numbers going into 3 digits and now the latest was in excess of a thousand new cases a day. This was an oversight I believe in the foreign workers’ dormitory. Singapore is a forward looking, advance planning nation and I still have my confidence in its ability to keep the situation from boiling over. The city state is now under a lockdown called the Circuit Breaker. Most locals, myself included, are law abiding citizens who would willingly heed and observe the Government’s recommendation and advice. Hence there isn’t a need to introduce harsh measures of enforcement. This is a bit of an oversight. There are now many foreign workers and immigrants in Singapore. Many of us would have seen video clips on social media on how harsh measures such as beating and canning were seen in various parts of the world, where such measures were introduced to enforce a lockdown. It hasn’t come to that yet in Singapore and I would strongly doubt that it will ever come to that but Singapore has taken to issuing fines, evoking work visa and potential jail sentences for persistent offenders.

Singapore’s strategy of containing the spread of Covid-19, in attempting to strike a balance between allowing the economy to hum along against the need to prevent the spread of the disease has been winning accolades from around the world and with the spike in the numbers of new infections recently, has drawn some rather harsh criticism on social media both from within its own community and from abroad.

I am confident that the situation can be kept from boiling over. What many do not know is that Singapore is a forward looking nation. A nation that plans well ahead in advance. After having lived through the SARS epidemic, the government would have a well thought out plan to deal with similar occurrences. There would have been considerations taken on potential future waves of infection and potential mutations which could be even more lethal. Let me just stop there with that.

I do stay awake at night, after this circuit breaker has drastically altered my daily routine and I ponder upon those unanswered questions that we would have of this pandemic and the aftermath.

Here are some of my thoughts and opinions.

What we are seeing now is unprecedented. The whole world is facing a common enemy, the Coronavirus, and nearly 6 billion people are under some form of lockdown or travel restrictions. Economically, nearly everything has come to a standstill apart from those deemed as essential services. If this is needed let us all do what is required and get through it with the minimum suffering.

Thus far we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  Political leaders, playing a blame game when they should be focusing more on controlling the spread of this disease and saving more lives instead.  I will not want to go there. It is simply ugly.

Being confined to the home, I have spent nearly all of my waking hours reading and listening to some of the best macro economics minds out there, to get a better feel of where we have come from and where we could possibly be heading.  It is a crazy situation out there. We have come close to a meltdown and collapse of the whole financial economic system. There are many economists out there speaking harshly against the actions taken by the US federal government and Reserve Bank.  I beg to differ on this. We would have gone down the rabbit hole if the Fed had not taken such decisive and strong actions. Governments and financial institutions around the world would have closed for a few days. Disorder and social unrest would be everywhere by now.  At least that has been staved off for now. I have majored in International Economics in university and this historical event that we are living through now is of particular interest to me.

The very fact that things are not many folds worse than they are right now is due to the timely actions of the Fed.  We are not through it all yet. I do believe that the worst is yet to come and I do hope that the governments around the world can keep this house of cards from falling apart.  The alternative will be bad. Very bad. Think of starvation and social unrest on a worldwide scale. The destruction of wealth to the extent that the ability to put food on the table will be questionable.  Going forward, it will become even more difficult to keep things together as the current financial and economic system that we have today, comes under increasing stress. All I can say is that we should hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. I really do hope that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.  Look far back enough and we will see an almost exact replay (minus the Coronavirus) in the past, leading to the rise of dictatorships and eventually war. Let us do our part where we can. The alternative is unthinkable.

I do really really hope that sailor dog and I will be able to fulfill the dream of cruising the seas around us on our sailboat and once floating home, Micasa.

Good night for now and stay safe and sane. God bless everyone.

Published by Ben

Semi retired ex-corporate executive. Now a liveaboard on a sailboat with the Admiral and my sailor dog.

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