Coronavirus deal fatigue

There’s a term in investment banking called “deal fatigue” – from experience, it happens around 6 months into a deal process. That’s usually halfway.

Despite numerous late nights and ruined weekends, the parties to the transaction just can’t seem to agree. The whole deal might fall over, taking your bonus with it. You spend every waking hour tweaking the financial model and dealing with lawyers and their intricacies.

Don’t even get me started on client emotions and how much pain that causes.

A few months after fatigue sets in, one of two things happens: the deal closes and you celebrate, or the entire thing falls over and you wonder what the hell you’ve been doing with your life.

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South Africa has Corona deal fatigue

The current state of affairs in South Africa reminds me of deal fatigue.

When lockdown was announced, most South Africans applauded the initiative. The thought of R2bn in donated funds sounded incredible.

Everyone would be ok, right?

Unfortunately, that R2bn barely touched sides. The rest of the economic assistance was also ineffectual. Weird rules became the order of the day with ridiculous (or no) logic to them.

Quietly, against this backdrop, the curve flattened. Sort of.

Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize is a standout in government in my opinion. I needed to go to Home Affairs this week and the social distancing measures in place were excellent. I know from discussions with friends that a lot of work has happened in the background to prepare our health system for this onslaught.

Make no mistake – the onslaught is coming.

Ignore the incredibly ignorant “fake virus” posts you see on Facebook. Yes, there are statistical anomalies. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation and lack of trust out there.

Yes, you should be scared anyway.

No, Bill Gates didn’t create this virus to “get rich” or “control the population” – I don’t even know where to start with people who think that.

Dr. Mkhize’s efforts are going unnoticed

Dr. Mkhize’s mandate is to save lives. Simple as that. He’s not in charge of the economy and frankly his views on it (if he has any) are irrelevant. It’s not his job. To his absolute credit, he stays in his lane and gets his job done.

Sadly, due to the extraordinary ineptitude of other Ministers in government, South Africans are now gatvol – not just of lockdown, but of Coronavirus entirely.

“Where are the deaths?!?” many have shouted.

“Why have we shut down the economy when the murder rate is so much higher than deaths from Corona?”

Dr. Mkhize’s success has become a reason to doubt everything he’s done up until now. That’s not right, although I understand how we have gotten to that point.

In Brazil, 1,188 people died on Thursday, taking their toll past 20,000 deaths. Brazil has not carried out widespread testing, so they have lost the fight already. They haven’t controlled the virus. What will be, will be. There’s a window period to do something about the curve and they missed it.

It will be ugly. The death toll in that country will rocket.

The South African death toll is around 400 in total. That’s a remarkable achievement by Dr. Mkhize and something we are all forgetting as we get increasingly angry about the inconsistencies in lockdown and Dlamini-Zuma’s personal (and nonsensical) crusade against sin taxes.

What should we be doing?

I’m a libertarian at heart. I believe strongly in personal freedoms, provided you aren’t doing anything to harm anyone else.

That’s exactly why this is such a complex issue. By exercising your right to be free, you are potentially harming others, even unknowingly.

So, what should we do?

Incredibly complicated lockdown levels aren’t helping anymore. The framework has “management consultant” written all over it, no doubt accompanied by hefty advisory fees.

I think it’s far simpler than that. We need an economic framework to protect two types of people:

  1. Immuno-compromised people who need to work
  2. Healthy people who need to work

There is no point in a Corona-driven economic framework that focuses on the unemployed, because they are in the same position they were in before the crisis. Social grants are still being paid. In fact, they would get a raise if government got around to distributing the extra social grants that were promised.

Economic frameworks need to focus on the people who are economically active, not those being carried by the active few. Proper economics actually creates jobs in the long-term which helps solve unemployment anyway. The alternative is communism and I think we all know how well that works.

Freedom to choose, with regulations to protect your choice

If you have a medical reason that puts you at more risk than average, then you need to be allowed to choose to self-isolate. You need to be entitled to home school your child for a few months and work from home to the greatest extent possible.

Government funding should be channeled towards those who cannot work from home, regardless of race or occupation.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even mind contributing to a special fund to assist those who are too high-risk to work but need to do so to put food on the table.

Equally, if you are healthy, then you need to have the right to work (with regulated precautions in place). You can make an assessment of your own health and choose to take the risk or not. Frankly, dealing with Coronavirus sounds more appealing than having starving children. A lot more appealing.

A single mom hairdresser who is currently facing economic suicide deserves just as much recognition as a heavily immuno-compromised 30-year old. The current framework is simply destroying the economic realities of most of the country, healthy or otherwise.

Dr. Mkhize is saving lives from Coronavirus, but other Ministers are taking lives from hunger and poverty. It’s not sustainable.

A brilliant Corona response from a health perspective risks being forgotten entirely as the economic fallout intensifies. That would be a great shame.

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