The risk is real

The impact of the now fast-spreading coronavirus is being analysed worldwide. Given China’s importance to the global economy, experts are analysing if it would derail the global economy.

Economists are already pointing to some creaks. Because the Chinese economy is more interlinked and open now than in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, the impact is predicted to be more severe like the coronavirus. 

 The first industry to shiver is the travel and tourism industry.  Millions of Chinese tourists at this time of the year travel for the New Year holiday. The industry is hit with cancellations. Even tiny Bhutan is not spared. Hotels are losing reservations and travel agents are cancelling bookings in the hundreds. Although the number is small, Chinese tourists are still seen as the fastest-growing. In 2018, among the international tourist arrivals, there were more Chinese visitors after the Americans. One time they even took over the Americans and Europeans.

 As the Paro tshechu draws closer, our nervous tourism industry now would be dreading the emails that they once looked forward to. The Paro tshechu in spring heralds the tourist season. But the coronavirus is making would-be tourists too frightened to travel.

 The priority today is to keep the disease at bay. The health ministry in cooperation with other ministries and agencies are keeping vigil all times to ensure that. It is our responsibility to cooperate.

 At the moment, apart from the tourism industry, not much impact is felt in other sectors.  In fact, albeit temporary, the drop is fuel price is welcomed after the fear of rising fuel price following the problem in the Middle East.

 The advisory on official travel outside Bhutan, some say, had helped eased the problem of not meeting officials in their offices. Service delivery should improve and bureaucratic procedures should ease, say others.

 While this claim may be a tongue in cheek remark, the reality is that Bhutan like other countries, is linked to international spending with national economies. It is said that when China sneezes, everybody catches cold. There are concerns.

 Thousands of businesses, from construction companies and automobile industries to food suppliers, are wishing for the pandemic virus to end. Business is already affected worldwide.

 Experts are cautious, but not ruling out the possibility of a recession if the virus continues to spread and most parts of China remain shut down. Bhutan will not escape the effects of a global problem like coronavirus.  It could derail our plans and priorities.

We are in the second year of a significant Plan. The first year had passed with economy growth at its lowest.  Everybody is looking forward to the government’s second year in power. There are plans and budget earmarked accordingly. A global crisis in health or economy could force us to reprioritise.

 At the moment, all we can do is wish for the virus to stop spreading and secure our borders and entry points.

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