It only took a few days of partial lockdown to demonstrate how deeply our separate lives are connected by our consumption patterns. From the fuel we put in our cars to the office rent we pay to the after-lunch coffee and the training session at the gym, together they form an imperceptible grid that makes us a community.
It is not to say that societies are based on transactions; surely there is a more profound sense of collective identity and shared narrative that holds us together. Besides, the feeling of community almost amplified proportionally with the severity of social distancing measures.
But the Covid-19 emergency gives a new dimension to our economic relationships. When we produce and consume, our actions reach far beyond the immediate buying-selling process and help sustain an entire cycle of living.
Participating in the market is, therefore, an essentially public act. Not simply because we trade with other people, but more importantly because we contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of everyone else within the system.
Public life, in this perspective, is not limited to politicians or activists. Quite the contrary and, as oxymoronic as it sounds, the private sector is utterly public in its nature.
The upheaval in the past weeks made clear that the interests of employers and investors are not contrary to those of employees and customers, and many people are, in fact, both one and the other. So much so, that throughout the crisis the business community has emerged strongly as a guarantor of the common good.
As the general conversation slowly shifts from emergency management to recovery planning, the private sector must be allowed more room in the public arena. Businesses, on their part, ought to become more mindful of their function within the civic domain and step up their involvement in the community from conventional CSR or ESG programmes.
It would be a mistake to think that the post-Covid era will be a safe landing in the world we know. Expectations will change for every stakeholder and, now that the private sector affirmed its centrality to public affairs, businesses must not shrink back to the periphery.
This is why we’re launching Malta 2030. We have the opportunity to shape Malta of tomorrow.
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