May 23

The Economic Impact of Ebola on the Economy of Grass Valley, California

images (7)The title of this article would seem at first glance to be ridiculous. Really, how much of an economic impact can Ebola have on a small Northern California town? Consider this: I am a rough diamond gemologist living in Grass Valley and I earn my living working mostly in the DRC, Guinea and Sierra Leone. My normal business has been severely diminished because my clients are afraid to go into the bush in the DRC, Guinea and Sierra Leone because of Ebola. This means that I am delaying building my dream house on a gorgeous mountain property my wife and I bought recently. In addition, because I need a four wheel drive car for mountain driving, I wanted to buy a new Toyota 4 Runner, but have opted to buy a Toyota Rav 4 because I need to be financially prudent.

You may laugh because my small contribution to our economy is not of any great significance except to the sales people, vendors and contractors I would have done business with. Of course, there is a small ripple effect from these people. Still, I know it is not going to affect most of the people of Grass Valley. That being said; there are thousands of people in the world just like me. All of us together make up a pretty big group of people with a substantial impact on the overall world economy.

Already, Ebola is destroying the economies of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. These countries in turn are affecting the economies of their surrounding countries and all businesses and countries where there is trade. In addition, people are now afraid to go to other African countries even though those countries are free of Ebola. A case in point is Angola. I have an opportunity in Angola to purchase large quantities of rough diamonds. Normally, my clients would jump at the chance. Now all of my clients are afraid to go to Angola because they consider Angola to be part of West Africa.

I know what you are thinking. What do the far away problems of West Africa have to do with Grass Valley? The answer is simple. The world is a very small place where disease can travel without restriction and fear can spread faster than a California forest fire. What happens on the other side of the world today can cause disastrous consequences here tomorrow. With each collapsing economy, our economies become weaker and we may find ourselves suddenly in the middle of a world economic collapse with all the social-political problems inherent in such a collapse.

The sad part is that Ebola could have been stopped months ago. I was in Sierra Leone at the end of July and the government of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were begging the world to send help. Anyone who has ever worked in developing nations can tell you that these countries cannot cope with major diseases or calamities. They do not have the money, infrastructure and expertise to deal with it.

Yet, knowing this, our government and the rest of the governments have done little. Even this week, the Presidents of these countries made a desperate appeal for help. Without serious intervention and assistance, Ebola will spread to the West and perhaps the whole world, if that happens you will be worried about more than you’re your pocket book.

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March 2

Have You Ever Seen a Robin Weep

download (28)Normally, it takes me about 30 plus hours to travel from my home in Grass Valley, California to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Because many airlines have canceled all flights to Sierra Leone, I had to fly to Washington, D.C., and layover for three hours. I then flew to Brussels, and had a layover of 14 hours in Brussels. Then off to Casa Blanca, have a drink with the ghost of Bogart (I would have preferred Ingrid) and sit there for five hours in a crowded airport section with returning Sierra Leoneans. Then I flew for four more hours to Sierra Leone with a guy beside me who after coughing up a storm, put on a face mask and rubber gloves. Finally, arriving at the Freetown airport, the airport security had us wash our hands in cold water and then took our temperature.

After filling out a medical questionnaire, I was able to get on the bus that takes you to a 15 person ferry to cross the bay to Freetown. Wouldn’t you know it, another guy sits next to me and puts on a mask and gloves. Now on this ferry, it can be rough water and everyone on the boat wears a life jacket… Everyone except the guy with the mask and gloves! It took me over 46 hours to travel to Freetown

I tell you this because as you might well imagine, a person with Ebola can also travel through a number of countries, contact many people and land who knows where, and with what, if any restrictions. The idea of a travel ban for West Africans makes us feel better and is well intentioned but poorly thought out. Even in Sierra Leone, when the government put some villages under quarantine and have multiple road checks, people still left the villages on the trails and rivers and made their way to Freetown.

To enforce a travel ban would require a hundred thousand troops. Better idea is to send a thousand medical people and the equipment and medicine along with qualified infectious disease control personal. As.a side note, the people of SL are wondering what the value of our troops are in Sierra Leone. They ask me if we are preparing for war. They feel the troops were sincere, but wasted in their mission. I am told by a friend of mine who was there, that despite Ebola, the troops were in hot pursuit of the beautiful women of Sierra Leone.


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