To say that we are living in unprecedented times feels like an understatement. COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly around the world and almost every country in the globe is facing the acute and terrifying experience and the world has virtually gone to a complete lockdown. The reality of this new pandemic took the world by surprise. Crises like these are so rare and it is a fact that we really don't know what, or how long-lasting, the after-effects of the COVID-19 crisis will be.
COVID-19 is, first and foremost, a public health crisis, but more than a health catastrophe, it is definitely going to disrupt other spheres of life. It will be the beginning of what will surely be one of the deepest recessions in history. Even before the onset of this pandemic, the global economy was confronting turbulence on account of disruptions in trade flows and attenuated growth. The situation has now been aggravated by the shocks COVID-19 has inflicted.
The lockdown has caused economic hardship, pain and suffering to the poor, to employees, to traders, to businesses, to professionals, to name a few. But what is in store after the lockdown?
Lockdown is merely a measure to buy time to prepare for a scientific plan, as it would delay peak infection. The number of infections world-wide would, eventually, be the same and as per many studies, the disease would spread for over a year or even more.
Businesses and jobs are going to have a negative impact in the next 12 months, and some of the adverse impact may last longer. Millions of people are going to lose jobs as many industries and businesses are going to face huge liquidity crisis or severe insolvency problems. Consequently, there is going to be loss of purchasing power for the people which could last a couple of years. More than the economic and materialistic issues, another problem that we would face is handling the psychological turmoil.
Overcoming the Crisis:
As the population of most countries starts to move from quarantine measures to restricted living, the challenges we are going to face are also going to be intricate. The world is not going to be the same – we will find a different pre-corona world and a post-corona world. We need to acknowledge that the world has changed. Adaptation is the key. We have to make quick changes to survive and the faster we adapt ourselves the better it will be. With job loss and business loss in the great recession, people will face difficulty to fall back on support and will be forced to abandon their existing lifestyle.
All upheavals will leave their marks. Some will fade away fast, but some will linger for a longer time. COVID-19 reminds us of our vulnerability. This calamity is also considered by many as an ego slap by the nature. This is a time that we should recall the torture that we have inflicted on the environment, the insensitive way in which we treated human beings, and also the greed that we exhibited by defending our actions on consumerism and utilitarianism. When we invest in facilitating the recovery of our lives back to normal, we need to maintain a delicate balance, acknowledging that we learn as we progress. The disruption caused by COVID-19 should help us to think differently. We must take advantage of the pandemic to act on social norms and incentives together. We need to realise how we can lead a more conscience life, adding value to society. A less individualistic, more compassionate society goes hand-in-hand with more accountability for our actions. We need to move beyond short-term thinking, for our own benefit as well as future generations. Such a reckoning would be a giant step toward remaking a world unmade by COVID-19.
Supporting by Time Bank:
During the time of economic recession and non-access to services, one option to tackle these issues is to look at "Time Banking". It values the contributions of individuals who have been overlooked by the monetary economy and can be used to provide new entry points into the monetary economy. At the same time, it can rekindle age-old patterns of give and take to reweave the healthy families and communities that everything else depends on. It is an old idea, with roots in the 19th century labour reform movement. Modern Time Banking dates to the early 1980's, when American law professor and social justice advocate Edgar Cahn established it as a way to build community and meet social services needs in an era when the social safety net was being shredded.
Time Banking service can be wide open to any kind of service. It generally uses the neighbours-helping-neighbours model, where members are free to choose what services they would like to offer – either to other members or to the community at large – and also what services they will request. With Time Banking, a person with one skill set can bank and trade hours of work for equal hours of work in another skill set instead of paying or being paid for services. It is a system of bartering various services for one another using labour-time as a unit of account which was developed by various socialist thinkers based on the labour theory of value. In Time Banking environment, people receive time credits when they provide a service to another member of the Time Bank (and the member receiving the service is debited an equal time). Every hour of time is generally valued the same, regardless of the service rendered. This equality is intended to foster ties in communities and, by making all contributions valued equally, encourage equality in the communities themselves. The focus is often on exchanges by individual members as they give and receive services to each other, forming a different kind of local economy based on caring and kindness.
In his book "No More Throw-Away People", Edgar Cahn outlined the core principles for Time Banking. They are:
The advocates of Time Banking, from the early socialist writers to present-day proponents, emphasize its advantages in building (or restoring) community, inclusion, volunteerism, and social assistance. It is promoted as helping to foster community ties and encourage people who would not normally get involved in traditional volunteering. Above all, it has been championed for enabling people with low incomes to access services that would be unaffordable to them in the traditional market economy.
Peacegate Time Banking:
Indian Institute of Arbitration & Mediation (IIAM) has adopted the concept of Time Banking in its mediation services for providing community mediation service for resolving disputes by way of consensual mediation. This was officially launched on 14th July 2018 by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Madan B. Lokur, Judge – Supreme Court of India.
The success of a Time Banking community largely depends on its size and diversity. The more professionals there are, and the more diverse skills they have, the more likely it is that people will start using this type of service. But the problem faced by Time Banking community was the absence of technology to track the members and the services.
Now Peacegate Time Banking is extended to various services and the entire Time Bank service is backed-up by a state-of-the-art technology integrated with the Peacegate App (www.peacegate.in). You can open the Time Bank account, offer your service, request and give services through the App and verify the Bank statement through the App. For eg., if you are a Teacher, Counsellor, Psychologist, Musician, Yoga Instructor, Health professional, or Mediator or for that matter any person, you can offer your services free and the time that you spend for giving those services will be credited in your Time Account. This will carry interest too @12% per annum. Anytime you can redeem your time credit for availing any of these services in return free – for you, your friends, relatives or others for whom you would like to get such service. And the services will be kept on adding! And in case you don't redeem your time, you can transfer your PeaceGate Time Banking Account to your nominee. It is much more worthy than the money that you transfer to your children. You have honourably earned this time by offering services to the community! (For more details, see: www.arbitrationindia.com/time_bank.html)
Facing the future:
The worst is yet to come, but this pandemic will definitely end. Our future depends on learning its lessons. As Sri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India had said, "Life and time are the world's best teachers. Life teaches us to make good use of time and time teaches us the value of life". It is said that Time is limited and priceless and once you have lost it, you can never get it back, but Time Banking gives an answer to it. You can store your time and gain it back in the future and it teaches us the value of life.
During the Post COVID period of economic recession and phycological anxiety, access to many services will be difficult for the people. Through Time Banking we can provide the services of counselling, psychological assistance, yoga and meditation, coaching students on various subjects etc. free. By providing these services, you are not only participating in rebuilding the world back to its reels, but also leading a more conscience life, adding value to society. At the same time, you are investing in Time, which you can redeem, when you need a service in return!
It is said that the worst times can be the best if you think with positive energy. The object of every society is to ensure continued peaceful co-existence among the people as well the maintenance of equilibrium and growth of the society as a whole. We need systemic solutions to these kinds of problems. We can keep our community connections strong and model the behaviour to show the world that love and compassion are stronger than fear. Your time and labour could be a big help to someone needing support. You can offer your services while taking precautions to keep you safe, as well as by online services. So, what we need is a different economic mindset. At its core, the economy is the way we take our resources and turn them into the things we need to live. Looked at this way, we can start to see more opportunities for living differently that allow us to overcome the crisis and produce something better and more humane.
Anil Xavier is the President of Indian Institute of Arbitration & Mediation and the Vice-President of the India International ADR Association. He is practising as an advocate in India since 1991. He is the Chairman of the Accreditation Committee of the Asian Mediation Association (AMA) and a member of the Ethics Committee and Independent Standards Commission of the International Mediation Institute (IMI), at the Hague, Netherlands. He is the first IMI Certified Mediator (International Mediation Institute) from India and is empanelled as an International Accredited Mediator with the Singapore International Mediation Centre, Singapore, Florence International Mediation Centre, Italy, Mainland Hong Kong Joint Mediation Center, China, Japan International Mediation Center in Kyoto, Japan and International Dispute Resolution & Risk Management Institute, Hong Kong. The author can be contacted at [email protected]