How well are our economic theories placed to prescribe a solution for the Covid19 crisis? This is first of its
situation when more than half the world has been shut down. Earlier pandemics didn't have such a
massive global sweep.
The past depressions too were not global in nature, unlike the situation we are having today, when no
country will be spared precipitous fall in their economies. Even the 2008 Financial Meltdown had varying
impacts on different countries.
OECD data shows that in fact China leveraged the crisis to dramatically improve its economic power in
the world. Korea too emerged stronger after the crisis, as did Sweden and Canada. 2008 was a milestone
in global power shift away from the US, which was the epicentre of the financial crisis triggered by Wall
Covid19, began in China to sweep across the world with its devastating destructive power. However, it
has affected the US more than any country, perhaps with the exception of China and Italy. In many ways
the Covid19 pandemic is a first of its kind global crisis – its very nature is different. There are no solution
templates available to combat Covid19.
It is in this context we must question whether our past economic theories, government responses, global
institutional advice and response, really work. Or, do we need to think afresh to draw up an entirely new
plan to fight the virus and salvage our economies.
It calls for a dynamic plan, taking each day, each month at a time, because this is a fast-changing
scenario with extremely volatile uncertainties. Let's take the example of Singapore. Just when the world
was applauding its success against the virus, another wave hit the island nation, knocking it off. The
leadership confidence vanished in a twinkling.
Our planners, economists, politicians, mulitateral agencies haven't had to deal with such extreme
uncertainties ever before. This is a first of its kind event for which what has worked in the past won't work
now or in the future. Old theories, strategies, responses templates have to be debunked.
A new design thinking has to come to find entirely new solutions. Innovative thinking is not exactly the
hallmark of our politicians. Their advisors too are ancient with archaic ideas.
Let’s examine the evidence; lool at how woeful is the state of our healthcare system and how advanced
our weapons systems are. Look at the declining budget allocation for education. In the tussle between
Books vs. Bombs, bombs have won. Our politicians are thinking of winning the next election to use this
tragic situation as a fantastic opportunity.
Look at the poor state of our research and development. Does it speak of progressive thinking? Let's look
at the unplanned Lockdown of India which revoked India's tragic partition like visuals. Heartbreaking to
watch millions walk thousands of miles to reach their homes, from the comfort of our homes.
Technology literacy among politicians and economists are at best amateurish. Of course there are
exceptions, which prove the theory. And without science and technology one won't be able to tackle this
entirely new crisis.
Only technology development has this kind of velocity that closely matches the speed of this virus. Only
advanced data science, quantum computing, bio-technology converging with medical research has the
capability to crunch zettabytes of data to find patterns, analyse those and create the intelligence
necessary to understand this unfolding crisis. It has to be a data driven insight to frame our responses
and design our policies with compassion.
Only advanced technologies across disciplines can hope to match the quickening pace of this deadly
virus. I read economists, who are quoting economists who are long dead centuries ago, to suggest
responses to this crisis and I keep wondering; how will solutions based on the past, solve something that
the world has never encountered before?
Are our politicians, except Angela Merkel or Jacinda Arden, who have shown tremendous capabilities in
understanding the crisis and respond, equipped with the intelligence and compassion necessary to deal
with the crisis? The German Chancellor is a scientist and the New Zealand Prime Minister has shown
exemplary empathy in dealing with every crisis in her beautiful country.
Some are intelligent enough to rely on data and science to create agile responses. The New York
governor, Andrew Cuomo whose state and city are facing the fierce brunt of this pandemic have shown
how data, truth, empathy and transparency are the only weapons against this attack. In my home country,
the Chief Minister of Kerala has shown exemplary leadership in this situation. He too relies on his health
minister who is lady of science to deal with the situation.
You will notice that Covid19 has helped us to understand that fact-based agile responses, reliance of
science, being truthful and transparent, and designing policies with compassion have worked. These are
the only weapons that need to work in tandem to counter this pandemic and beyond. It will become a new
template for the future, when we will witness new pandemics every few years.
(Abhijit Roy is a columnist and passionate Facebooker )