Shropshire Star comment: Hard graft to get economy going starts now

The true state of the economy will not be revealed until later this year. When furlough comes to an end and businesses make final decisions about how many staff they can afford to keep on, we’ll begin to understand exactly what state we’re in.

Businesses are opening up again after three months in lockdown
Businesses are opening up again after three months in lockdown

The signs, however, are more encouraging than we thought they might be. Unemployment in Shropshire has fallen while across the West Midlands it is also lower. Pockets of the Black Country, however, buck the trend and are yet to experience a return to better times.

The Government’s handling of the pandemic justifies an inquiry. Its handling of the economy, however, has been good. While it has not been able to help all of the people all of the time, while there are a significant number who have fallen through the gaps, it must equally be stated that things could have been a lot worse.

As businesses have struggled to cope with the twin impacts of Brexit and the pandemic, a greater number of jobs might have been lost; a higher number of businesses been casualty to considerable uncertainty.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to launch a generous furlough system, then to extend that system, has preserved a vast number of jobs that would otherwise have been lost in this region. In the months ahead, we must hope that business retain as many staff as possible with the scheme coming to an end and people due back to work. In many ways, the hard graft starts now.

The Treasury has provided protection against the worst excesses of the pandemic, though as the NHS turns its attentions away from Covid and back to routine procedures, it is time to focus on the economy. Businesses may need ongoing support if they are to emerge in a new, post-pandemic era. Stability is all important, incentives may help to generate investment, we must not have poured money into furlough only to see companies and sectors collapse.

These are unprecedented times but as the vaccination programme continues its remarkable work, we must get people back to work.

The world had changed. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we behave, it has altered our priorities. Businesses are no longer run from offices, they’re run from Zoom platforms as people work from home. While there will be some return to offices in coming months, a significant cohort will remain tied to the home, making a significant contribution without hitting the road.

The rat race no longer consumes us. More people want to move out of towns and settle in rural areas; space is at a premium. The focus on career has shifted, too. People no longer consider their career a higher priority that spending quality time with friends and family.

Covid-19 has taught us important lessons about the important things in life and people are reshaping the way they live and focusing on maintaining relationships with loved ones. The sacrifices that so many have made are offset by the love of relatives and close friends. Being rich in love is important to so many people in the post-pandemic world.

The pandemic has taught us an important lesson, which is this: We must find time to stop and smell the roses.

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