What is this new normal that everyone keeps talking about? What can we do to better prepare ourselves for it?
I remember finishing my pint of beer at CE LA VI, accompanied by some of my closest friends and the breathtaking views of the Singapore skyline.
My birthday party went all the way till late that night and I have barely enough energy left to carry myself home.
I remember telling myself that that is going to the last time I am going to party so hard, reluctant to acknowledge that my body is no longer what it used to be.
That was back in March 2020.
Shortly after, Singaporeans got confined to the four walls of their homes as the Singapore Government implemented circuit breaker measures in response to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic locally.
Travelling has since, been banned.
We are now half a year into this new arrangements and as creatures of habit and routine, we were able to adapt and make do with this new norm.
Back in May 2020, I was fortunate enough to be part of a lecture by Common Ground.
Common ground aims to bridge the public and private sector to facilitate social innovation for pressing national concerns. In this case, it is COVID-19 and the world after that.
During the lecture, one of the slides hit me the most.
Back in May, no one has any idea on what the new normal is going to look like. By gathering observations, researches and news on what was going on, Common Ground compiled a list of some of the possible things we can pay attention to, in preparing for the new future.
While you can have your own judgement call on what the new normal is like and the degree of impact, the basis of this chart is to allow us to understand what are some of the things we should start paying more attention to. All credits to Common Ground.
High Probability, High Impact
The collapse of businesses and key industries
Migrant labour crunch due to immigration restrictions
Food crisis (most of the world)
Restructuring of the international power structure
Worsening of relations between countries
Retreat from hyper-globalisation towards an increase in protectionism, self-sufficiency and decoupling
Disruption in global supply chains
Prioritisation of national interests and rise of nationalism
Rise of authoritarian, right-wing nationalist-populist govt
Expedited technology adoption
Accelerated scientific advancement
Disruption of schools
The nature of work, how cities and homes are designed
High Probability, Low Impact
Businesses pivot to low touch economy
Tax rates rise especially for higher income
Interest rate low, no rapid inflation
Tough immigration control
A shift in luxury to wellness
Consumer behaviour, how markets shift
Disruption of humanitarian aid flows
The rise in importance of social media
New holiday industry, less travelling
Low Probability, High Impact
The collapse of the Arts sector
Food crisis (Singapore)
Great power rivalry
Multilateral cooperation on global common issues
Less polarised, non-partisan politics
Low Probability, Low Impact
The collapse of co-working space
Decreased support for sports
Reduction of religiosity with social distancing
Resumption of cultural exchanges and other cross-border people flows
While that was back in May 2020, we are starting to see some of these things slowly happening.
I am going to focus on some of the things Singaporeans can start working on, as we brace ourselves for what is going to be ahead of us post COVID-19.
For a start, stop the blame game.
We are all in this together. There is no point trying to put the responsibility on anyone, be it certain countries or the government.
The early we get past this stage and start working on ourselves, the better the chance of us surviving.
With the COVID-19 Pandemic, we witnessed the collapsing of businesses and industries. We realised that no businesses or industries are technically "bulletproof".
The survivability of the nation will then depend on how fast a nation can pivot to catch up with the new normal by focusing on the up and coming industry and businesses.
A good example will be countries that are overly dependent on the tourism industry to boost their economy. With the possibility of travel hanging in the balance and little certainty of what to come next with regards to travelling, a country may wish to grow other sectors in the country to offset this risk.
With migrant labour in shortage due to immigration restrictions, a country may wish to revisit its reliant on foreign labour for some of their sectors.
A good example will be the construction industry of Singapore. There might be a need to encourage more locals and technology to offset the manpower risk in the industry.
I remember having the urge to make some pasta during circuit breaker, only to realise that most of the supermarkets have run out of Pasta sauce. This continued for more than a month before I start to see a different brand of pasta sauce popping up on the shelves. This was probably due to a slight disruption in our usual food supply. One more thing to not be taken for granted.
Singapore imports 90% of our food supply from over 170 countries.
We have done a really good job of being 70% self-sufficient in terms of our domestic water demand. It is about time we invest more into locally meeting our food demand.
When COVID-19 pandemic came "rocking the boat", individuals are starting to notice how risky it is if they are fully focused on a particular set of skill.
With the tourism and entertainment industry being hit the most, individual with a secondary skill set are able to rely on it and earn income from it.
This further emphasizes the importance of having a set of hard skill apart from the skill required for your daily work.
With work from home slowly evolving to be the new norm, the line between work and rest fades.
For someone like myself who have structured my room to be more leisure-focused, now finds a need to transform it into a more workable environment.
With my bed just beside my work desk, the importance of having a system and schedule plays an important role in ensuring that I do not overwork and suffer from a burnout.
Having a system also helps you with being discipline during work hours.
The usual practice of having six months worth of savings for rainy days is being put to a test this COVID-19 pandemic.
We are starting to realise the importance of savings, and more importantly, the need to have a fair amount of liquidity.
Illiquid savings look good in numbers but it is not really useful in times of crisis.
Here are some good examples:
My investments in the STI ETF seems like a good amount of savings that can possibly provide a good amount of liquidity whenever I need it. However, when COVID-19 hits, the value of the STI ETF that I invested in, is less than my initial investments. Liquidating my STI ETF would mean that I incur a loss.
On the other hand, my savings in the bank and Singapore Savings Bonds turns out to be a good cushion of emergency fund where I can withdraw them without making a loss.
In order for any individual or business to thrive, you need to have your ego checked at the door.
What got you to where you are at may not necessarily bring you forward.
Have a clear goal, and align yourself towards that.
This way, we can all navigate out of the storm stronger.