Nov 25, 2020 Letters
The world has welcomed with a huge sigh of relief the arrival of anti-COVID-19 vaccines. But just as how it will take a while before the vaccine makes headway amongst the world’s population, in the same way, it will take some time before the impact of the pandemic on the global economy withers away.
In June this year, the World Bank in its ‘Global Economic Outlook During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Changed World’ had this to say: “The baseline forecast envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020, using market exchange rate weights – the deepest global recession in decades, despite the extraordinary efforts of governments to counter the downturn with fiscal and monetary policy support.”
The Bank’s outlook went on to state: “The crisis highlights the need for urgent action to cushion the pandemic’s health and economic consequences, protect vulnerable populations, and set the stage for a lasting recovery.”
That was five months ago, since then, millions around the world have either been infected and/or died from the virus. Concomitantly, the economies of almost every country went into a tailspin. The manufacturing sector, along with exports have dwindled , tourism in particular and the services sector in general suffered immensely, and small, medium and large size businesses suffered heavy blows because of the economic and social impact of COVID-19.
Late last month, a group of economists published an article in VoxEU, the portal for the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) entitled ‘Economic Consequences of Covid-19: Counterfactual multi-country analysis.’
In the article the group concluded:
“Our country factual analysis points to large and persistent negative effects of the pandemic on the world economy, with no country escaping unscathed.
China and the ‘Emerging Asia’ group will fare better in the near term. The Swedish example, however, serves as a warning that no economy is immune from the negative consequences of COVID- 19 in an interconnected global economy…” (Chudik, Mohaddes, Pesaran, Raissi and Rebucci).
The message could not have been clearer. Now a vaccine is in the offering, but as was to be expected, the richer countries have already booked and paid up for their supplies of vaccines. And the poorer countries will have to depend on the donor community’s generosity for the supply of vaccines to help them fight off the deadly virus.
In this regard, UNICEF has announced that nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be shipped and flown to developing countries in a ‘mammoth operation’. (SN 23.11.20).
While provision of the vaccine by the donor community is to be welcomed, it will not serve as a panacea for the persistent developmental challenges facing poorer nations.
Addressing the annual lecture for the Mandela Foundation in July this year, UN Secretary General Guterres advanced the call for a ‘New Global Deal’ to ensure power, wealth and opportunity are shared more broadly and fairly at the international level.
According to Guterres, the pandemic has revealed like an x-ray, “fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built.”
The UN SG added; “Rich countries have failed to deliver the support needed to help the developing world and that the pandemic has brought home the tragic disconnect between self-interest and the common interest; and the huge gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks.” (S/N 20.7.20)
Guterres’ call for a ‘New Global Deal’ is reminiscent of Cheddi Jagan’s call for a ‘New Global Human Order.’
In his address to the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Irfaan Ali was reported as saying: “We trust and support the UN system to ensure fair, transparent and timely global access to the preventive tools, equipment and material for testing. In this regard… we look forward to increased international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic.”
At the recent G20 Summit, held in Saudi Arabia, the EU called for the mobilization of US$ 4.5 billion by the end of the year from the G20 to cover the cost for COVID-19 fighting tools for poorer countries.
And a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the G20 nations pledged “to pay for a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world so that poorer countries are not left out…”
Closer to home, the Prime Minister of Barbados has called for a ‘Caribbean Marshall Plan’ to address the economic decline the region faces as it confronts the deadly combination of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inherent social and economic disparities that continue to stymie the region’s development.( SN 15/7’20)
Meanwhile, here in Guyana, the UN Resident Representative contextualizing the UN SG’s Mandela Foundation speech fired a tweet stating: ‘“Here in Guyana, the dual C-19 and political crises must open way for a new social contract based on inclusion and cooperation.” ( SN 20.7.20)
Placed in the Guyanese context, the UN Res. Rep’s recognition of the dual nature of the pandemic’s impact coupled with exigencies of an unstable democracy is instructive. It is a call for action.
Very few Guyanese need to be convinced that the call for ‘a new social contract based on inclusion and cooperation’ is an option for the way forward. The big question is, who will take the lead and see it through to the end?
Clement J. Rohee
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