THE year 2020 was supposed to be one where we became a “developed” nation. Instead, it was a year of great suffering for many workers and consumers. It was a year of health crisis as well as economic crisis.As a health crisis, many lost their loved ones or were infected by the dreaded Covid-19.Apart from a strictly physical health crises, it affected others more deeply. Mental health issues increased. Suicides have increased. Beyond that, there were reports of increasing domestic violence.As an economic crisis, many lost jobs or had their incomes reduced. Many were stuck with debts or commitments they could not fulfil. Basic needs were affected. Children’s education were affected.None of this is new. But how do we move forward from here into the new year 2021? There was indeed much suffering but thinking more deeply, there are also some lessons to be learnt.One simple message going viral that is “2020 was not a year to expect and plan for what we do not have but appreciate what we do have” can be a start. Here are five other thoughts.We need to invest in our health. We do not know when this pandemic will end or the next begin. The next pandemic is not an “if” but a “when”.We need to take care of our health and strengthen our immune systems. The suggestions are nothing new – healthier food, exercise, and adequate sleep. Further, we need to invest in supplements and regular check-ups. Will they protect us? If not completely, certainly they can contribute some extent to reduce the risks and mitigate the negative impacts.We do not know the shape or the form of the next diseases but certainly we can invest in our health to protect ourselves the best we can.Jobs are uncertain. Many jobs that we thought were secure and growing, suddenly collapsed.The most obvious was the leisure and entertainment industry. Many small and medium businesses were mauled by pandemic. Jobs were lost. Some will recover, others will not.The lesson is that we need to learn about jobs is the need to continuously upskills and reskill ourselves.We need to understand the trends in the economy and be prepared for any severe disruption in the current way of doing things.In a survey in late 2020, nine out of 10 Malaysian employees see the need to reskill or upskill. This must be an ongoing process.Financial literacy is crucial. It cannot be denied that the consumers best able to face the economic crises were those who had managed their finances well, having sufficient savings, managing their debts and being more conscious of how they spent their money.It is certainly not a certainty that having better financial management is enough itself but it certainly helps. Consumers should make serious efforts to empower themselves with financial knowledge and skills to enhance their management behaviour.Practical technology is the future. While for the younger generation, the use of technology comes with ease, for many of the older generation, it presented a greater challenge.Yet the increase of purchases of goods and services online as well as the greater amount financial transactions, meant many of the more seniors were able to overcome their initial resistance to learn to master enough to manage their situations better.Technology is the way forward. It is inevitable. Thus, all workers and consumers should make the effort to master the essential technology to function effectively in the current age.Scams increased during the pandemic. Consumers must always be wary of scammers out there taking advantage of the difficult environment to profit for themselves.The Macau scam and love scam were rampant. Consumers at all times need to be wary of “best opportunities to earn an exceptional income”, “call by the authorities about some so-called crime” or “online love that just needs some money to transferred to his/her account”.Caution is not only the best but sometimes the only protection against scams.Finally, during these tough times, may each one affected or unaffected, seek divine providence and guidance to face these and any challenges.Hopefully, the crises brought us closer to the divine whoever we perceive Him to be. – January 5, 2021.* Paul Selva Raj is Fomca CEO. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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