The year 2020 is coming to an end, and this has been a year which has left us with many questions, many experiences and many learnings. When it started no one was prepared for what was to come. As COVID-19 pandemic hit every corner of the world, government administrations and citizens worldwide had to look for solutions to the brand new problems which arose.
The sanitary systems of countries were seen to collapse, and the one in South Africa was not the exception. In order to take care of, and better prepare the health system in their territories, world leaders resorted to national lockdowns as a primary measure. This action indeed helped to slow down the number of people who got infected by the virus, and led hospitals and other health providers to be better prepared, but at the same time it brought with it many other consequences socially and economically speaking, as well as, for instance, in the fields of education and culture.
In the economic field, there have been many hardships to be sorted out, such as the interruptions in the processes of manufacturing and mining, there was also a cutback in the activities in economic sectors like transport, trade and construction which led to a reduction in job opportunities as well as job losses, leaving many South African people unemployed. Activities in businesses who were just starting to get their enterprises to soar came to a halt, and in turn many individual households were affected.
Answers to this situation began to appear at a rapid speed at the beginning of the year, and they continued to appear during this last time, solutions not only provided by the government, but also by different organizations across the country.
Among the many measures taken as complements of the national lockdown, the South African government offered and continues to offer information in order to raise awareness on how important it is that citizens all over the country take care of themselves, their families and neighbors. In order to successfully face the hardships brought up by the pandemic, every aspect of day to day life has to be accounted for, and education and knowledge are key to overcome them successfully and adequately.
Amidst the crisis, many small businesses and start-up companies could not meet their monetary or financial debts. Many of them found themselves unavailable to pay salaries, for instance, or to keep their business running while having to account for employees working from home. There was an evident need for government help in this sphere, too. Individuals and private small businesses looked for financial help such as home loans, mortgages, and access to credit financing.
The availability of loans in South African banks was as extensive as it was needed by the South African population. Thus, if truly affected by the situation and in need for assistance, citizens were able to access an array of different options. Many different paths were taken to offer people relief, among those measures many loan schemes were available, such as the government-guaranteed loans provided by the National Treasury together with the South African Reserve Bank, or the initiative for voluntary relief offered by banks, the last one having now come to an end, hence debtors are required to begin to pay back.
However, according to the BASA, ¨banks are continuing to provide loans for salaries and other operating and start-up costs to small businesses under the Covid-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme¨, namely the previously mentioned government-guaranteed loans. This being so, since many organizations and also individual citizens continue to struggle to make ends meet.
It is worth mentioning that each bank carried out a process of evaluation before granting a credit. After having assessed the applicants asking to borrow a certain amount of money, banks made a decision about who or which business could access the relief. Nonetheless, the opportunities have been broad and a great number of organizations were benefited. Even much so, if an application was rejected during this time, the person trying to access the loan could issue a complaint to the OBS (Ombudsman for Banking Services) in order to get the application revised.
In sum, Covid-19 hit countries all over the world in ways unthinkable to us previous to 2020. Nevertheless, no matter the hardships that arise from the crisis, governments have taken action to bring relief to the population they lead. Applying for and acquiring loans has been one of these measures and it has brought benefits to many, and hopefully this will continue to be so.