In his address to the nation on March 15, the president of Cyprus announced preventive measures putting the country and large parts of the economy under lockdown. The message was that severe economic hardship was imminent and we all had to brace ourselves for the impact.
In the face of this unprecedented crisis, the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB) responded by suspending all non-essential services and focusing its resources and human capital on helping the government and businesses protect public health and the economy.
We put OEB into overdrive, establishing the federation from day one as the contact point for businesses. A Mon.-Sun. hotline was introduced offering guidance to businesses and we issued more than 175 circulars in real time, providing information and answering questions about healthcare protocols and the business support schemes put in place.
We also made 67 radio and 192 television appearances, of which 52 were on primetime news. In the same 4-month period, our executive committee convened 27 times (it usually sits about 10 times a year) and met 11 of our 14 cabinet ministers.
The business community rallied behind OEB’s efforts, offering valuable insight into the problems the economy was facing. We are proud to say that we were directly involved in the framing of the national response strategy, our proposals forming a considerable part of the national COVID-19 exit plan.
This pandemic has been hard on everyone, most of all the tragic loss of human life. It has affected our interpersonal relationships, employment and the way we conduct business. We have been moved by the solidarity people and businesses have demonstrated, as well as by how well they complied with the restrictions imposed.
Although a force of destruction, COVID-19 has taught us a lot. We have learned that the state and the private sector can work together effectively in perilous times. We have learned that decisive intervention based on solid scientific evidence can bring positive results. We have also learned to think differently and adapt how we work, foregrounding the importance of a digital economy.
Unfortunately, this crisis will not leave our economy unscathed. But from what we have experienced so far, if we show the same resolve and decisiveness in the months ahead, we can put this crisis behind us with fewer losses than there might have been and return to normality sooner rather than later.