The Time Warp of 2020


The city streets are empty of the typical weekday city crowds, cars and commuters. No more people than the digits on my hands.

Silence.

Unfortunately, the daily Freo Doctor wind feels the need to continue to invade every inch of air space like clockwork. It would be nice sometimes for it to take a vacation! I feel like I’ve jumped into a time warp, that’s taken me back to the mid 90’s. This quietness used to be the norm, back when I was a teenager. Particularly as a result of the limited shopping hours on Sundays, as well as very few apartment complexes had been built in the city at that stage.

Hay Street Mall during an afternoon that should have been bustling with commuters and shoppers
Hay Street Mall during an afternoon that should have been bustling

Most of the people strolling through the mall certainly don’t appear to be in a rush. Perhaps some or all are tourists. Now stranded here in Perth due to the apparent grounding of international flights, which could remain in place for as long as six months. Half the people I see, wear light blue surgical masks.

Many shops are forced to close as the economy takes a beating
Many shops are forced to close as the economy takes a beating

Initially I am consumed, perhaps even overwhelmed, with sadness at the emptiness of Hay Street Mall. Almost to the point of tearing up, Most of the shops, which I photograph, are closed. Contributing to the ghost town-like feel. Quiet. Dead. Abandoned. I think of all the struggles small businesses already experience. Particularly shops in the city. On top of struggling to compete with ridiculously cheap products sold online, the overhead costs, high rates of rent, power bills, insurance, employee wages and tax to name just a few. They are now closed for an indeterminate period of time.

As of 30 March 2020.

Although some categories of shops don't necessarily fall into what is banned, closed or restricted. As The Guardian state, 'Shopping centres and other shops not specifically told to close, including bottle shops.'

Which would surely increase the already-high levels of stress and fear felt by business owners.

Shop after shop remain close as the COVID-19 wrecks havoc on the economy
Shop after shop remain close as the COVID-19 wrecks havoc on the economy

Employees are pretty much in the same boat. More than half a million people are expected to lose their jobs, as the economy suffers its biggest fall since World War 2. Partially as a result of the government's drastic attempts to "flatten the curve," well before we experience anything of what Europe is going through right now.

Thankfully the Government has so far, or at least appear to be, fairly generous with bailouts and extensive financial assistance. Some initiatives include the increased tax exemptions for small businesses, higher rates of welfare income and financial bonuses for specific groups already receiving some form of welfare benefits, including the pension.

The implications of the Government's huge expenditure, on top of January's $2 billion budget to assist those affected by the widespread devastating bush fires, is quite worrying.

It was only a few months ago that many government employees, agencies relying on government funding to continue operating, as well as departments desperately begging for more resources and staff, had their head on the chopping block. It was as if the government was going broke, resulting in the drastic budget cuts and a decrease in government jobs.

So it's hard not to wonder where this funding will come from. The implications could potentially be felt for ten years or longer!