Turning around: When life begins to feel a bit normal again



After more than a year, most of us now realize that we may be at a crux of a turnaround as more people get vaccinated, more businesses start to open up, and life begins to feel a bit more normal again.


As of this writing, half of American adults have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine with the vaccine administration now averaging around 3 million doses per day. On Guam, the target is to have 50 percent of the adult population vaccinated by end of April – the so-called “Path to Half” – which will then enable more relaxed policies to be implemented, according to GovGuam.


There is a glimmer of hope for an economic rebound. In some way, this has been helped by stimulus checks, with Guam residents already about to receive the third round of checks totaling $241 million. However, for the economy to recover, local businesses must open up, jobs lost need to be recovered, the near-zero tourism industry must be revived, and overall economic activity needs to increase, perhaps to much higher levels than pre-pandemic.


There are many factors to consider but I’d like to highlight two: the tourism balance and digital security risk.


The tourism balance: Guam relies heavily on tourism as a key source of economic activity. With near-zero arrivals in the last year or so, it is very tempting to open up that sector quite soon and fast. Is it possible to do so? If you look at the vaccination statistics of key Guam tourism markets, the countries are nowhere near the U.S. levels.


While Guam is targeting to hit 50 percent soon, the other countries are only at between 1 percent and 3 percent vaccination levels at this time. Moreover, these same countries seem to be in the middle of a second or third surge in cases.

What can Guam do to push for economic recovery but at the same time ward against a resurgence in Covid cases? Is it even realistic to expect tourists to stay for longer periods knowing that 14 days will have to be spent on quarantine?


What policies and protocols must change? Should Guam then refocus efforts on U.S. mainland visitors where vaccination levels are much higher? It is a tricky balance to manage.


The digital security risk: If there’s anything that 2020 has taught us, it’s that we can totally live in a more digital, socially distant world, where practically all transactions and interactions are done over the internet.


With increasing digital activity, particularly that of financial and economic transactions – cyberattacks focusing on economic sabotage will likely rise. This can come in two forms: 1) at a personal level where scammers can pounce on the vulnerable for financial gain; and 2) at the financial institutions where cyberattacks can potentially create huge economic sabotages.


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Imagine not only data breaches of our financial details which can be abused, but also the inability of our institutions to do anything, track any of its transactions, and will therefore halt economic activity.


I wonder how fast and protected our systems are from these attacks. Just last March, there was China's state-sponsored attack on some 60,000 email servers across the globe, which affected GovGuam, among others. It took GovGuam practically three days to recover. According to Frank Lujan, the governor’s Chief Technology Officer, ‘"We took down our email server on Tuesday afternoon, ... and we actually just came back up (Friday) morning around 9:30…. Now the system is back up and running and there's no anticipation to ... stop the servers for any additional remedies. There aren't any other vulnerabilities that we're aware of," Lujan said.


If more of these things are bound to happen, then digital resiliency and risk management measures must be given higher importance to ensure uninterrupted economic recovery.


For sure, all of us are anticipating the turnaround and move to see better days. But we must also need to incorporate the hard lessons we have learned and anticipate further issues that may arise. It will not necessarily be a full back to normal, everything-is-the-same-as-before world that we will be facing.


It will more likely be a welcome to the new normal, whatever that may be – wherein hopefully a much better, resilient Guam emerges. Otherwise, it will be a full 360-turn – and we’re back to where we are now or worst. Better progress is demanded and needed, from ourselves and those who have the power to do so.


Joy Santamarina is the chief transformation officer of Energy Development Corp. She has extensive experience across the APAC region in various sectors including FMCG, telecommunications, media, and technology industries. Send feedback to joysantamarina@gmail.com



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