How COVID-19 affects us beyond health problems

29th April 2020

I’m sure everyone’s well aware of the current global pandemic that’s forced  Italy to its knees and Brunei is trying very hard to contain. Yes, I’m talking about COVID-19 and I hope my dear readers here are part of the #janbabal movement. That’s because we all need to pull our socks up to fight this together and that basically means just stay at home and don’t socialise face to face.

So what IS COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

– CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

More easily digestible information on the factsheet here

But we’re not here to read about the virus are we? No, let’s talk money.

COVID-19 and your money

As many can see, the virus being highly infectious has immediately impacted many businesses. Particularly customer facing operations like tourism and hospitality industries have taken a beating. The Bruneian government has put in emergency policies in order to curb gatherings such as stopping dine-ins.

All this on top of projection that Brunei is on track to be in a budget deficit of at least BND1.47 Billion in 2020, it’s not looking good overall.

A macro viewpoint is good but the real deal is how normal people are being hit by this pandemic. It goes without saying that things are not running “normally” now. Business owners, freelancers, sales representatives, customer service providers and many more are being walloped by this bug. From a financial perspective, this really puts our initial choices and habits to the test. Here are some issues that we are facing:

1.Business survivorship

Of course, with the need to avoid places with people (introverts rejoice), many businesses are seeing significantly less traffic than before. This is especially true after the government imposed a rule that eateries are not to serve dine-in but can cater for takeaway. And like true business owners, many have started to offer delivery services whilst delivery apps have seen a boom in usage and traction.

That being said, many businesses still struggle to cover their overheads such as employee payroll and expenses. With that said, the Bruneian Government has rolled out a few stimulus packages such as business loan deferments, 25% subsidies for MSME employee salaries and so on.

2. Job security

And obviously if businesses were to close up shop, their employees will also be left in the rain and lose their income. Yes, we have many MNCs (multi-national companies) that have work-from-home policies. But some small businesses just cannot operate on a work from home system; without some work at least. So what happens to people on can’t work in businesses that can’t sustain?

Well so far we’ve seen forced unpaid leave, pay reduction and many unsavoury reactions that, although unfortunate, is understandable.

3. Emergency funds

I’ve always been an advocate for having enough emergency fund for… well, emergencies. Usually the examples are car breakdowns or unexpected medical fees. But as we can see, an event like now would be severe enough to impact and even stop our income stream! Therefore what can we do without a little nugget of wealth tucked away to live off?

If you’re one who’s fortunate to not have the virus impacting your income, do seriously look into this. This is also a sort of acid test for everyone: this is what it will be like when we retire! There’s no income, only what we’ve done so far to live off. Can you retire like this? For how long?

4. Debt servicing

One big demon that will rear its head will be our loans that, regardless of whether times are good or not, still need to be paid or we risk losing some assets. This is another point towards having enough in our emergency funds, otherwise who and where are we going to get the money from? There has been loan deferment packages introduced that could alleviate these burdens. Bear in mind the deferment is on the principal and interests will still be accumulated.

5. Adequate insurance coverage

It saddens all of us that the virus has taken its share of lives and that’s still not capped. At worst case scenario, the virus is able to cause death as can be seen worldwide particularly in the elderly and the immunocompromised. It may be an additional peace of mind if you have some form of insurance coverage for life and critical illnesses. A bonus would be to have medical or some sort of income replacement insurance in place; in the event you are knocked out of commission for 14 days or more (due to treatment).

You can get in touch with a professional by filling our contact form which will be forwarded to them.

6. Necessities and supplies

As if monetary issues are not enough, we sometimes have to participate in a gauntlet in order to buy necessities in the supermarket. The perilous death traps are replaced with other shoppers that may or may not be carriers. Not only that, there are some… interesting people who hoard toilet papers, instant noodles, sanitizers and so on. Which only serves to make things more expensive because demand outweighs supply.

Thankfully there are policies are in place to limit buying and supplies have slowly made their way to our shores. Though it will take a while before everything will be “back to normal”.


The COVID-19 situation does not only affect public health, it also brings out the most idiotic behaviours in some (like the POTUS on the other side of the world). Worst of all, economies are affected by it as a whole and we have not even glanced the light at the end of the tunnel just yet. Things will get better slowly but surely; i.e. it’s not the end of the world kind of scenario. At least I hope not. So let’s do our best and practice social distancing, enhanced hygiene and support local businesses wherever we can.

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