Pandemic and its sequel
By Vivek Pattanayak*
After all the destruction, Covid 19 has perpetrated on the people of the world from the East to West, from North to South and the devastation it has inflicted on the global economy, one wonders what the world will be in the near term or what will be its long term consequences. Will there be new way of life? Will there be deglobalization? Will international institutions become weaker? Of course, much depends upon when the scourge of this virus would wane.
Will the people learn anything? Will they observe social distancing? Will there be less of raucous parties? Will the elderly go out freely to market and banks? Will a new mode of teaching come to schools, colleges and universities? Will more people work from home? Will there be more of e-commerce? Will there be more of internet transactions in the banking? What about malls, cinema halls, and bars? What about sports meet? Will there be less of social gatherings in engagement ceremonies, weddings, birthday parties, funerals etc.? Will there be mass demonstrations on the roads or in public places? Will the political parties organize rallies? Or, like all public memory being proverbially short, this virus scare will simply disappear from the minds of people with elapse of time?
Will the governments declare victory? Will the opposition give any number of reasons how loss of lives could have been better avoided?
As it is, the economies around the world have been badly battered. For the economies to come back, will not the global trade, business and commerce be relevant and necessary? Will not the existing supply chain be needed to restart international or even national business? Will it not require air transport sector to play a part for carrying medicines, equipment, fruits, vegetables and other essentials?
Will not people travel for business? Will “Make in India” program not be pursued? Will the Western companies not come to India? Or will they remain busy only in their own countries? Even if they stay in their own countries, will they not outsource some activities beyond their national borders either for reason of economy or because of availability of skill elsewhere?
What about future of IT professionals of India in USA, Canada, and Europe? Will they not remain there to contribute to rebuild those economies? If this is true of India, will it not be equally true for other expatriates in the West? Depending upon the answer to above questions, one can visualize whether deglobalization will take place or not, now or later although some experts predict deglobalization.
While the fury of the pandemic has not declined, although there has been severe disruption to international and national business, supply chain has to be maintained for transportation of medicines, medical equipment and even food items.
Capital markets are inter-connected. Multinational companies are all around the world in all the regions. MNCs have transnational ownership. Decoupling, if it takes place, it will take time to unfold. However, if there is conscious effort by the governments for political reason and business houses for economic grounds it can start. Although there is now an emotional upsurge against China in the Western countries mostly in US particularly led by political leaders, will the corporate behemoths subscribe to that thought? Of course, it is too early to predict.
Scare of virus would linger and as long as it persists non-essential travels will be avoided. Air transport sector has already suffered. Tourism for pleasure will take longer time to revive. Domestic tourism will perhaps restart first. Hotel industry will continue to suffer. The restaurants will have to learn how to remain viable and be active resorting to more of door delivery? Assuming that after-shock of virus would continue, business as usual of the past will not be seen for quite sometime.
In some countries in the West particularly in US, the local people may develop anger against the Chinese people just as they had developed antipathy against the Arabs after 9/11. Average American will taunt all Asiatic people not being able to distinguish Chinese from Japanese, Koreans, Thais or Vietnamese. The Asian restaurant will become less popular. China Towns will be avoided. Islamophobia increased in the West initially after 9/11. Now it is the turn of Sinophobia.
In the long term, what will be the future of EU? As it is, this plurilateral institution has been weakened by Brexit. Italy and Spain need assistance. Can EU bail them out? Germany and France, the wealthier members will have to rebuild their own economies first, and hence can they easily come forward to help Italy and Spain? With USA having been devastated, can there be a revival program like Marshall Plan for Europe.
Britain is left alone. Will a new economic cooperative alliance emerge among the Anglophone countries like USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand?
Will the corporate houses of the West exit China? Will they stay in Asia like India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea? Will not the Western companies look for the Chinese market?
Will China not look for the Western market? Will China not come with some financial package to assist Italy and Iran where they had strong business presence?
Global problem needs global solution. Covid 19 is all over the world. Hence, global cooperation is imperative. Worldwide coordination is essential for international cooperation. The strengthening of international institutions like UN system including WHO is a prerequisite, and certainly not weakening.
Under the umbrella of WHO the medical scientists must cooperate for an action plan to fight against this virus now and also on a long-term basis. Exchange of information among virologists, epidemiologists, micro-biologists, medical scientists and public health experts in the world will save resources and time. This cooperation is possible only under WHO.
Under the leadership of Secretary General of the UN, the specialized agencies and Bretton Woods institutions must meet to draw plan to take appropriate action in sectors like agriculture, industry, commerce, environment, labor, tele-communication and banking. The executive heads of the specialized agencies should interact with national governments to have common plan and joint action.
*The author is a former bureaucrat and held important positions in aviation and power regulatory body. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.