Dr Andreas Baumgartner
There are many who are claiming that the Covid-19 Crisis has changed everything. Without doubt, it has changed our perceptions and - in many cases - our priorities. However, Covid-19 might not have actually created a new reality from scratch. Rather, it has accelerated trends already present: Online solutions have become more widely and rapidly accepted (and demanded) than expected. Video conferencing has become a normal tool of interaction for much wider groups of the population than one would have thought possible just a few months back, in January 2020. For public administration, this is not just a current challenge, but also a major opportunity for the future: Now is the time to manage not just the crisis, but to use and embed innovations that will shape the nature of public administration over the years to come!
What would be your recommendations to governments on the recovery process?
Definiteness of purpose, and a specific plan - Government leaders, supported by their civil services and societies overall, need to (re-)define clearly what aspiration is pursued by when, and how that is to be achieved, to get out of the crisis. It sounds like a very simplistic recommendation, but it will be at the heart of steering the recovery process.
Positive attitude - The world has been overcome by panic over the last months. Understandably so when reading the news. But to recover, we need to move back to positive messaging. To emphasizing what is achievable; what we have already achieved by working together. To hope, rather than desperation. More optimism will also have a direct economic impact.
Focus and stringency - Implementation of measures will not be easy; a "delivery unit" like coordination approach could be extremely well suited to ensuring impact.
Balance - We may face a situation where health concerns indicate further lockdown measures, while those very measures might be deadly poison to an already suffering economy. In spring 2020, we have seen very restrictive measures. Right now (end-June 2020), we see a race toward relaxing measures, to a significant extent driven by the need to save the summer tourism season and let economies recover. Going forward, we need to find a balance, rather than swinging back and forth between extremes, like a pendulum.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the priorities of the public, taking the fear of pandemics from a theoretical to a very real level. The public has, by and far, accepted that this situation required improvisation, as nobody expected the scale and impact of Covid-19 on all aspects of life. That said, there will be an expectations that lessons will be learnt from Covid-19 with respect to the future handling of comparable crises.