Is COVID-19 an Opportunity in the Difficulty?

Samnang and Sothie, just like millions of other people, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were unable to work smoothly like before and they are worried about their salaries. For a couple of hours in the morning, Sothie and Samnang usually discuss various topics. Today, the two men are having a conversation on the decline in people's salaries as the pandemic has been wreaking havoc on the country’s economy. 



Samnang: Eh, Sothie! Apart from the loss of human lives, the pandemic has been wreaking havoc on the economic sector, not just in Cambodia but across the whole world. Hundreds of thousands of businesses have filed for bankruptcy all across the globe. Millions of employees became unemployed. The rich have gotten richer and the poor much, much poorer. When will the situation be better? 



Sothie: It is hard to forecast. Based on some simplified predictions, if half of the nation’s population is properly vaccinated, then it is more likely that parts of the economy can start to get back on track again, but even then, export-focused businesses will still rely on a return to normality beyond just Cambodia.



Samnang: Speaking of Cambodia, how many businesses have gone bankrupt so far? 



Sothie: It’s hard to say, the last estimate said that 300,000 people had lost their jobs back in December last year, but this is the problem—everyone still has to keep spending, even when there are so few chances to earn. It’s a confounding problem.



Samnang: But if people are still spending, how are businesses still closing?



Sothie: It’s not that simple I’m afraid, let me tell you a story. Normally, in every situation, when there is a problem, there will always be someone who benefits and there will always be someone who loses. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and people are losing money in different forms. However, the pandemic has also created good opportunities for a group of people. The majority of businesses that comprise traditional shops simply cannot endure the prolonged economic disruption, but some of the newly-established online businesses have progressed forward successfully especially with the food delivery businesses. The number of online monetary transactions has increased a lot compared to the pre-pandemic time.

The process of distance learning is developing to cope with the needs of students. Various forms of registrations have been carried out online. Digital sales and marketing have improved. Some governmental paperwork has gone digital. The health services in Cambodia have benefited since patients cannot travel outside the country for foreign medical treatment. Generally speaking, the pandemic has destroyed plenty. However, it also seems to accelerate the progress of the development of Cambodia’s E-government faster than what it is initially planned. 



Samnang: That’s a steep price to pay for some small digitalization gains, are you trying to say it’s worth it?



Sothie: No, no, no! COVID-19 is not good. The virus has already claimed too many people in Cambodia. It has also claimed hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cambodian economy both in the past and possibly the future. We have to be very careful about this virus. 



Samnang: It is said that the pandemic has offered both good and bad lessons for some people. What are those lessons by the way? 



Sothie: The bad lesson is that the pandemic has penalized some of the “greedy” business owners who invest beyond their limits. It is a bad lesson because the pandemic occurred without expectation. On the good side, the pandemic has also provided business owners with new ideas, especially with online businesses. Nevertheless, sometimes everything may depend on destiny, Samnang! No-one can confront their destiny. 


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