Monday, March 23, 2020

Time and money to burn

This morning we were tempted to order breakfast in bed from one of Antigua’s leading hotels. 

This is actually a thing. And it is SO wrong. 

At one point yesterday morning pretty much the only vehicles on the streets around us were motorbikes delivering impulse nibbles. Some sported backpacks, others were trying to ride the bike whilst holding heavy plastic bags with one hand. 

As the alcaldes of other townships have resorted to sealing (soldering in fact) potential quarantine violators inside their own homes, Antigua’s own Mayor gave an address from his sofa (said to be in Cayalá) that lasted less than half a minute. He looked sheepish. 

There’s no doubt he’s been sipping from the poison chalice and that he can expect little gratification now from a four year term that began with so much expectation. 

There have been some token gestures, such as the new rubbish collection protocols. But if these workers are now forbidden from entering and engaging in up close personal contact with homeowners, what of all the couriers?

A friend in Ohio reports how his local vets are now operating: "Credit card only, call in the parking lot and they hand the meds over on a tray through your car window." 

Here there is a general imprecision still in the measures and the language being used to implement them which will tend to foster pandemic pandemonium. 

Businesses that were from the outset set up to serve international visitors are turning inward and seeking out local consumers in order to survive and this is going to impact the lives of those who were already just about getting by in servicing the local market. 

Historically the most lasting impact of plagues has been a set of changes in the balance of power at many levels of society.

As I noted yesterday, Antigua may soon recover, but it won’t be the same place. 

If the current free-for-all persists unmoderated, then it is inevitable that the comparatively weak will be eased aside by the politically and economically stronger. 

Just here in our village I can see how our local shops and panaderías in particular are struggling against new competitors prepared to operate at a loss like Silicon Valley start-ups. 

Speaking of which, Uber proposes to operate right up to the moment the curfew alarm sounds. Though I guess if you order one just before 4pm, you're going to have to show the driver your spare room. 

Caught in the middle of this power struggle are those whose economic power is time-limited. They are almost certainly operating at a loss right now, but don't have a pack of optimistic shareholders ready to chuck them a load of cash to burn whenever they need it. 

And fairly soon people are going to realise that this is not a short term thing. Trump may be dangling the possibility of an ah fuckit approach in 15 days, but the UK government has asked for emergency powers in law for two whole years (with a review in six months). 

Soon the novelty of breakfast in bed will wear off as the community as a whole starts to tighten its belt. And the croissants will be getting staler. 

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