Politicians keep reassuring people that we will soon be living the good times again. For many, the good times meant getting on with their lives: working hard to earn a living and enjoying the little pleasures that they can afford. For others, the good times mean making more profits in a booming economy or hopping from their present job to a better-paying one.

What our politicians say in public and what they fret about in private are two very different things. The prime minister, for instance, believes that “the coronavirus is behind us”. He has also promised a mini-budget to energise the economy and restore the feel-good factor.

The finance minister is a professional academic, and so is more cautious. He frets about the impact that the massive borrowing needed to kick-start the economy and boost it back to normality will have on this and future generations.

The majority of workers interviewed in a Times of Malta survey seem to believe that the worst is really behind us. Slowly, they appear to be growing more confident about what the future holds.

Just under two in three Maltese say they do not fear for their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis. Not surprisingly, private sector workers are more concerned about their job security than public sector employees.

Why are so many so confident about the future when medical experts generally agree that COVID-19 will be with us for much longer than we would like and that the future is, in fact, still very uncertain?

Why do so many workers believe that their employment will not be affected in the coming years when some economists and management experts predict that the significant changes occurring in the workplace will be here to stay?

Today, the mantra adopted by business and political leaders is that we need a massive stimulus to speed up the return of the economy to so-called normality.

But one has to be naïve not to acknowledge that the government will soon need to make important and difficult decisions about the competing spending and tax objectives. Taxing wealth rather than work could be one way to prevent job losses.

Promising all things to all men is a well-tested political strategy to court popular support. In the real world, such promises will never be kept in any significant way. The dominant political issue will soon be the fiscal black hole that needs to be filled.

When will consumer confidence return so that businesses can resume their activity to the extent that they can keep all their workers in employment? Malta’s economy is undeniably dependent on the dynamics of international trade and politics. It is, therefore, that much more difficult to predict how our tourism industry will evolve, how decisions taken within the European Union about taxation will affect our financial and e-gaming sectors, and how our present achievement gap in education will affect our competitiveness.

While many hope that in the next few months the economy will bounce back to where it was a few months ago, there is no justification for wishful thinking. Our political and business leaders need to engage in a gap analysis of the skills needed in the ever-changing workplace and the skill set currently available.

When ignorance is bliss, it is not foolish to be wise. Politicians, business leaders and trade unions need to engage in an honest discussion on how best to prepare for the changes that COVID-19 will inevitably bring to jobs and the workplace.

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