Last year was supposed to be the year we became a “developed” nation through Vision 2020. Instead, it was a year of great suffering for many workers and consumers. It was a year of an unprecedented global health crisis as well as an economic crisis.
So how do we move forward from 2020 into 2021? There has indeed been much suffering, but thinking more deeply, there have also been some lessons to be learnt.
One simple message is that 2020 was not a year to go after what we did not have but to appreciate what we did have. Here are five thoughts on this.
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 regular check-ups. Will this protect us? If not completely, certainly it can help to reduce risks and mitigate negative impacts. We do not know the shape or form of the next viral diseases but certainly we can invest in our health now to protect ourselves the best we can.
Jobs are uncertain. Jobs in many sectors that we thought were secure and growing suddenly just collapsed. The most obvious is the leisure and entertainment industry. And large numbers of small and medium enterprises were mauled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some will recover, others will not.
The lesson is that we need to continuously upskill and reskill ourselves. We need to understand trends in the economy and be prepared for any severe disruption to the current way of doing things. In a survey in late 2020, nine out of 10 Malaysian employees said they saw the need to reskill or upskill themselves. This must be an ongoing process.
Financial literacy is crucial. It cannot be denied that the consumers best able to face the economic crisis are those who manage their finances well, maintaining sufficient savings, managing their debts and being more conscious of how they spend their money. Good financial management might not be enough in itself but it certainly helps.
Consumers should make serious efforts to empower themselves with financial knowledge and financial skills to enhance their financial management behaviour.
Practical technology is the future. While the use of technology comes easily for the younger generation, it presents a challenge to many older folk. Yet the increase of purchases of goods and services online as well as the greater number of virtual financial transactions means that many more seniors have been able to overcome any resistance to learn to use technology better.
Technology is the way forward; it is inevitable. Thus all workers and consumers – whatever their age – should make the effort to master essential technology to function effectively now and in the future.
Scams increased during the pandemic. With consumers going online much more, they must be wary of scammers out there taking advantage of the difficult environment to cheat you out of your money. The Macau scam and the love scam were rampant.
Consumers at all times need to be wary of “best opportunities to earn an exceptional income”, calls from the authorities about some so called crime or “online love” offered by someone who needs just a little money transferred to his/her account to help with a small problem. Caution is not only the best but sometimes the only protection against scams.
Finally, during this tough times, seek divine providence and guidance to face these and any challenges. Hopefully, the crisis has brought us closer to the Divine whoever we perceive Him to be.
PAUL SELVA RAJ
CEO, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca)
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