These hard times, when the world is governed by the COVID-19 pandemic, can still be used to learn lessons about the operation of public sector institutions providing services, and most of all about public enterprises. The pandemic caused by the new Coronavirus will determine our social way of life for years ahead, thereby also the procedures that will prevent the outbreak of a new epidemic. If the world failed to learn the lesson with SARS in 2003, it will certainly learn it in 2020.

Thus, institutions will have to review existing rules and practices in service delivery systems in order to ensure the achievement of two goals: First, how they can autonomously integrate themselves in crisis management, and second, how to prevent the outbreak of a new pandemic.

First and foremost, when managing the next crisis, it is necessary that the rules, procedures and plans are developed in advance so that the crisis headquarters does not have to micromanage processes. A typical example in this sense is the public transport, which was reduced due to the decreased dynamics of passengers, which was contrary to the desired goal of increasing the space between people that use public transport. In future, every public service entity will need to know beforehand how to act depending on the type of the crisis.

However, what is more important than the readiness to act in coordination at times of crisis is to reduce the risks of onset of a new one. This means that in a series of areas, public service providers, and most of all public enterprises, will need to redesign their process in order to incorporate social distancing and hygiene rules.

It is a widespread belief that the virus made the “jump” from an animal to a human at a wildlife market. This assertion has not been confirmed, nevertheless the future of open markets throughout the world will be dictated by far stricter rules of hygiene. In our case, it is necessary that sanitary control and public enterprises managing markets work on application of the latest rules developed in the world governing this issue. Waste collection and disposal should also follow the same line, which should protect not only employees but also the environment from the spread of pathogens at all times.

Public transport will undergo the greatest change all over the world. Social distancing, as a new norm of contact with (un)knowns, has different needs for the public service where users typically have the closest contact. This will mean investments in the size of public transport in order to decrease the number of passengers per vehicle.

In a nutshell, public enterprises face the challenge of how to draw up new rules so that they go through the next crisis better. The crisis management centre must manage the process and help them be ready for the future, with procedures and roles elaborated in advance.

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The project “Improved good governance of state-owned enterprises and independent state bodies” is directed towards improving the governing culture of public enterprises and independent bodies.

The project is funded by UK aid through the UK Government. The stated opinions cannot be taken to reflect the official positions and policies of the UK Government.