Adapting to lifestyle changes under the pandemic

Saigon Investment
(Saigon Investment) - A little over a year ago, the sudden and virulent outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic began to affect our lives in Vietnam, when the first Covid-19 patient was confirmed. Now, Vietnam is suffering under a third wave of the pandemic with a new virus variant named SARS-CoV-2. 

Illustrative photo.

Illustrative photo.

Under such extreme circumstances we are all having to make drastic changes to our lifestyles, requiring us to make radical changes to our behaviour patterns to prevent the spread of infection. These changes are causing huge concerns for not just the population in general, but also in the economy as well as in governance.  

Tet celebrations dampened

This year the vernal or spring equinox will occur on Saturday, 20 March. This marks the first day of the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere. On the equinox, the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the globe, and the Sun rises due east and sets due west for all on the planet earth. This is time for spring, for a new season, new growth and the blooming of flora and fauna across the globe, with a start of a new life cycle.

However, the saddened mood and tepid atmosphere during this year’s Tet Lunar New Year celebrations reflected the feelings of all the people. Streets were more or less deserted, very few yellow apricot flowers and kumquat tree pots were seen lining pavements. There did not seem to be any enthusiasm among people to rejoice and shop and sight-see, as would have been the case in other years at this time. People are continuing to maintain social distancing and still fear being infected by the coronavirus.

The usually busy and bustling airports prior to the Tet Lunar New Year holidays were deserted with hardly any travelers queuing to catch flights to their various hometowns. There were no family members waiting to welcome their relatives coming in from abroad after a long year of working, or crowds of people waving and hugging their relatives coming home for a family reunion during their Tet holidays. There is no denying the fact that instinctive fear and psychological uncertainty due to the pandemic still exists, especially after the latest outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 variant, which has shown that the disease can spread faster with a higher transmission rate.

On the economic front, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to change work strategies, restructure the economy and reconsider trade relationships. The pandemic might have been a catalyst for conflicts of interest between countries, now more intense than ever, as seen in the fact that the US Department of Treasury on 16 December 2020 labeled Vietnam as a currency manipulator.

Adapting to ‘new normal’

The phrase ‘new normal’ is often mentioned in the media, referring to a changed way of adaptation. However, a ‘new normal’ here does not mean everything will return to back to a previous state. Instead now, individuals and organizations will have to change and adapt to current ongoing difficulties and uncertainties in life. To be more specific, we must make necessary changes to our way of living and working, and improvise our production and business strategies. As far as the Government is concerned, a ‘new normal’ means that the Government must change its approach towards management of policies and find new growth drivers, in order to achieve results in drastically curbing the disease, and making a simultaneous and concerted effort to facilitate rapid socio-economic recovery to ensure stable lives for all the people.

When spring ends, the storm and rainy season follows, and the oceans usually stay calm before and after a deadly storm. Although it is hard to achieve perfection in everything, and in governing policies especially, we must pin our hopes on the strength of the next generation in making improvements and adapting to new situations and new lifestyles. When the vaccine cannot reach everyone, the most crucial action that each of us can take is to follow extreme caution and implement preventive measures, and focus on gaining more immunity.  

Immunity here does not refer only to the human body, but also our ability to learn ways to prevent and control the disease, turn our fears into determination to overcome difficulties, and totally avoid procrastination, as more and more people seem to be saying, “we will wait to do certain things after the pandemic ends”. This way to procrastinate and put off an action is most unproductive, and we fail to take advantage of the current situation to strengthen ourselves. Most recently, hundreds of thousands of workers voluntarily celebrated Tet Lunar New Year far away from home, marking a good spirit of togetherness, and supporting the effort to combat and contain the new variant strain of the coronavirus. This action was responsible, and showed respect and love for the entire community and their fellow brethren.

The 4.0 industrial revolution has spread across all activities and reshaped operations, production and service activities around the world. The country's economy has shown its positive adaptability to hardships. The capacity to apply digital technology, automate the manufacturing process, and put creative ideas into practice have enabled businesses to ride the storm during these hard times. Vietnam's General Statistics Office and the World Bank have made statements that in the last nine months of 2020, more than 60% of Vietnamese companies were able to adapt to a ‘new normal’ by applying digital technology.

Strategy for economic growth

This year will be the start of Vietnam's ten-year strategy and plans for socio-economic development. The success of the Party's 13th session will provide a solid foundation for many far-reaching objectives. Successive leaders are expected to make the economy grow in leaps and bounds, so as to actualize the dream of making Vietnam a more developed country with a modern industry and high average income by 2030, and a fully developed country with higher income by 2045.

Some top priority areas in 2021, proposed by the Government to the National Assembly for approval, include a GDP growth rate of about 6%, and CPI around 4%. During the five-year period of 2021 to 2025, the GDP growth rate is expected to be between 6.5% and 7%, and GDP per capita from USD 4,700 to USD 5,000 by 2025. GDP per capita is expected to be around USD 7,500 by 2030. The industrial production growth rate is expected to be about 30% of GDP, while the digital economy will make up 30% of GDP.

Undoubtedly, inclusive, sustainable rapid growth is an important goal when we adopt socio-economic strategies. It is now vital to improve our capacity and production quality, as well as increase our competitiveness and quality of human resource. Highly functional models of digital economy, circular economy, and green growth are basically what different countries are striving for. The trend in applying science, technology, innovation and modern models of urbanization and smart cities, together with the 4.0 industrial revolution, is what will pave the way for a more functional and strong economic future.

Tô Công Nguyên Bảo, M.A. University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City

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