After This Virus

When (and if) this episode of the Covid-19 virus passes, will the Hawaii economy be left in hopeless tatters?

That’s a fair question in light of nearly 20% of our state GDP coming from tourism, and the likelihood that many mainland and overseas people will be too financially shocked to consider a Hawaii vacation.

There’s also the fear that as cooler weather comes in fall and winter, the virus could resurrect itself. In that aspect, it is much like other flu organisms.

The U.S. government is much more capable of a quick economic recovery because the Treasury can print money to buy bonds. We cannot.

But we can start up an ambitious, funded-by-wealthy-investors construction program, including doing what we should have done many years ago — build truly affordable high-rise housing for low income residents and give units out on either a buy-in basis or a rent-to-own basis. It’s often called the Singapore Model.

And housing projects should be geared toward putting people closer to where they work. It’s exciting that the Navy is doing planning on a residential and retail community adjacent to Pearl Harbor and the shipyard.

It’s silly for us to have housing in Kapolei for people who work in downtown Honolulu. But we do that because most cannot afford downtown housing. It’s priced for money-parking by foreigners. We blew it with Kakaako!

The transit train will also be a major recovery project. Yes, some of the hard-core naysayers will continue to badmouth it, but I suspect the general public will see it as both the worthy public works project and necessary transportation asset that it is or at least will be.

There are some good signs already on the national level. Even as the spread of COVID-19 accelerates in many regions, institutional investors are becoming ever more bullish about the prospects for the stock market. That’s according to a survey by RBC Capital Markets.

“Our respondents are highly bullish on stocks, the most optimistic they’ve been since we started our survey in the first quarter of 2018,” wrote Lori Calvasina, head of U.S. equity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

So don’t just cry “woe is me.”

Look for some opportunities.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

4 replies on “After This Virus”

  1. I have never been to Singapore, but I have seen photos of it. I don’t favor thousands of high rises on Oahu, as it would be a blight and eyesore. I love suburbia with single family houses. If people can’t afford to live on Oahu, then they should move to the neighbor islands.

    1. Over the last 30 years I have lived in Hong Kong, Singapore and now Shah Alam in Malaysia and “affordable” housing in those three countries ranges from a shoe box in Hong Kong to a large, expansive tropical house I now live in in Malaysia. I worked on projects in Hawai on and off for 17 years and one of the things that always surprised me was that Hawaii was so relatively close to the financially, dynamic countries of S.E.Asia but always seemed to look east towards the mainland for inspiration, support and solutions to all its social and financial problems. And the exemplary countries for the Corvid-19 challenges Hawaiians face currently are in Asia and Australasia, not mainland USA. I dont think the requirement for your housing challenges are “thousands” of high rises but a lesser number of not so high rises. But if you want them to be as successful as Singapore, they have to be well designed, extremely well maintained and you have to bring your infrastructure up to the 1st world level of Singapore. Just as a side note – during the 20 years I lived in both Hong Kong and Singapore, I didn’t own a car because the public transport infrastructure in both those cities was so far ahead of anything in the USA, that I never, ever needed one. This virus will change absolutely everything but it will also allow countries and cultures to rebalance themselves and correct many of the failures of the past. Mahalo.

      1. I lived in Manhattan, New York for 5-1/2 years (1970-1975), primarily in the upper west side near Columbia University. I would not want Oahu to turn into another metropolis like Manhattan. Because of rent control, the landlords had no incentive to maintain the apartment buildings, because they were able to raise the rent only when the tenants moved out of their dilapidated apartments. The subway system, however, was excellent.

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