An establishment of the number of deaths and active cases is no longer required to emphasise on the sweeping destruction of SARS COVID-19. The extensive information overload from all sources surrounding us is enough to apprise us of the problems caused by the pandemic. Minimal equipment, lack of hospital beds for patients, poor people struggling, and crumbling health care facilities and social systems currently characterise the countries previously overflowing with wealth and social status.
Perhaps, the aforementioned problems are not surprising in the face of an epidemic as intense as COVID-19 with burgeoning cases across the globe, except what is surprising is how quickly and badly these different institutions and structures crumbled.
Additionally, it may not even be as surprising as soon as one is to look towards the perspective with which society and government institutions treat these public institutions, services and systems. They have majorly functioned on the idea of profitability for decades. The governments, the firms and the producers depended upon their ability to exploit resources and individuals. On-demand economies and immediate pay-offs had the governments accustomed to overlooking the means as long as the ends were achieved. As a consequence, governments did not care if the hospitals were ill-equipped, or charged exorbitantly for basic healthcare services as long as the capitalists and industrialists provided superficial happiness and continued funding the political parties.
Furthermore, this issue is only aggravated by the value (or lack thereof) attached to human life. The productivity and profitability of an individual determine the value they hold in a society. Case in point, the Indian government happily and willingly spent money to bring non-resident Indians (NRIs) home free of cost, while migrant labourers died on roads travelling to their home barefoot and hungry. The social cost of an NRI was less than that of migrant labour.
The justification offered by institutions at this point in time is lack of funds, except that is not true. It is the lack of willingness of the institutions to use methods that displease the industrialists to gather those funds, whether it is taxing the extremely wealthy 5% people or forcing private industries to provide services for a cheaper cost or reallocating resources and funds. The money spent on military and weapons of mass destruction exceeded the amount spent on building sustainable public institutions and healthcare systems by millions.
Considering the warnings by scientists and research institutions regarding climate change and global warming, the governments of the countries that are currently suffering have no excuse to offer for the lack of preparedness and crumbling structures except for gross neglect and greed.
Elon Musk is opening his stores and factories despite stringent lockdown and has not even received a slap on the wrist so to speak. Jeff Bezos is ready to become the first trillionaire while millions of people are currently facing unemployment.
All of the above is a result of the pre-COVID-19 structures and systems. Understandably, the public is upset. It is evident that a change in existing public structures and systems of governance is needed for the world to survive COVID and rebuild itself post-COVID. Countries like New Zealand, Finland, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Japan which previously prioritised strengthening and spending upon their public services and social systems are currently surviving far better than countries like the USA, which left it’s governance and institutions to the profit-mongering industrialists.
Economists and researchers reckon a change in outlook towards social systems and public services by the governing institutions, as enforced and instituted by the pressures and demands of the general masses. The dissatisfaction and unrest in the public is expected to be the catalyst for changing social structures. Currently, a majority of the world is focused on surviving the pandemic and will have to start anew once a vaccine is developed. One can hope that the countries rebuilt post-pandemic put more effort and careful consideration towards their social systems.
Another change in the post-COVID world is attributed to global trade and governance. A month before the spread of COVID-19, the two largest economies were engaged in a vastly damaging trade-war. Simultaneously the rest of the countries were realising the unbelievable dependence of their basic services on global trading and how a disturbance such as the one caused by the trade war resulted in hindering the free-flow of goods and essential items in multiple countries. Many also depended upon the delivery of protective equipment and essential medication from other countries to be able to fight the pandemic which further aggravated the issue.
Not only the woe of dependence but the power dynamic established due to the extensive trading by countries like China and the USA is also the reason for the anticipated change in global trading. The reason being that these countries used trading services as leverages to influence decisions in independent institutions like the European Union, United Nations and the International Monetary Fund to name a few.
Post-COVID trade is expected to be different in terms of restrictions as countries begin to question and subsequently dismiss the benefits of ‘free trade’. Countries are already beginning to work towards changing the trading system and minimising the dependence upon the global world. Japan is urging firms to re-establish factories in Japan through subsidies in its COVID-19 stimulus packages, the Indian government is actively marketing the idea of ‘self-reliance’ through catchy slogans and tax incentives, and the European Union is working towards ‘strategic autonomy’ through the purchase of stakes in local firms. Likewise, the USA has doubled down on coercing IT firms to build more local plants.
While the shift in focus and priority towards social systems and public services can only bring in positive results and benefits for the poor and underprivileged, the same cannot be said for the shift away from globalisation. Self-reliance and independence of countries may change the global power structures, but the cost of such a change in terms of less freedom, expensive goods and production, lack of resources, and inaccessibility in poor and developing nations may exceed the benefits.
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