The briefing that I recently attended, about the economic recovery from COVID-19 at the Institute of Policy Studies, was the first in-person IPS meeting that I have been able to attend in a year. After a year in which we were still able to attend briefings and breakfast round tables via Zoom, the opportunity to once again create human connections definitely lifted the mood of the meeting, despite the at times challenging nature of the economic data presented.
My biggest take-aways from the closed door session were:
- the data presented showed that the pandemic had accelerated digital adoption by 7 years across the ASEAN economies; the assessments at the beginning of the crisis that it would take 454 days to move to remote working, when in reality it took just 10.5 days.
- the importance of a successful vaccine rollout to the overall recovery of an economy, and the impact on travel and hospitality in particular across the region, with limited supplies in some countries delaying any significant recovery into 2023. Early decisions to purchase supplies early are paying off for others
- the pandemic has further highlighted where the most vulnerable are in society, and there were calls to ensure that any recovery must not leave them behind again, with planning and deliberate action needed to address the socio-economic fault-lines further exposed by COVID-19.
- a quick poll in the room showed nobody was looking forward to going back to the frequent business travel of the past, but recognition that the return of international tourism was critical to achieving the ‘next normal’ for many economies
Much food for thought as we consider our own planning for our 50th anniversary next year, and beyond to 2030. The positive focus in the presentations was on the durability of the recovery in Singapore, which was matched by the positive mood created by coming together in person to share insights and knowledge.
This quote from Pericles, on the wall at the university where the meeting was held, very accurately reflects my own thoughts after the sharing: What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.