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Category Archives: Socio-economic Collapse
Posted: June 4, 2020 at 12:48 am
The stock market is a litmus test paper, whichreflects the state of the world economy. Wars and catastrophes, epidemics, andpolitical crises there are many unpredictable events that can suddenly turnthe bull market into a bear market. COVID-19 pandemic is the latest one: sinceFebruary 20th, it has caused the fall of the S&P 500 index byalmost 30%.
However, thats not the only event like that. Letstake a retrospective look at the biggest stock market collapses in history.
1.Cuban missile crisis
Collapse date: October 16, 1962
Recession Period: 12days
After the end of World War II, the USA and the USSRstarted the arms race (which was the part of the Cold War). Meanwhile, therevolutionary government of Fidel Castro came to power on Cuba in 1959 andstarted introducing socialistic reforms. The Soviet Union supported the reformsand offered its help to the Cuban people. The very fact of cooperation betweenCuba and the Soviet Union caused serious concern in the United States.
In 1961, the Americans created a military base inTurkey and deployed missiles with nuclear warheads in close proximity to theUSSR. Nikita Khrushchev understood the consequences of such a missile strike onthe USSR, so the Soviet authorities decided to deploy nuclear missiles in Cubain response. They transferred 40 nuclear missiles and the necessary equipmentto Cuba by October 14, 1962. That caused the escalation of the conflict.
The stock market was affected by the crisis: the S&P500 index fell by 7% but managed to recover pretty quickly. Some experts saythat this crisis never happened; to be precise, it did not affect the stockmarket. The index flattened, and it was not as dreadful as the 27% drop of theindex in June 1962.
2.Arab-Israeli war and the oil embargo
Collapse date:October 29, 1973
Recession Period: 27days
On October 6, 1973, an 18-day military conflict brokeout between the coalition of Arab countries and Israel, which was calledDoomsday. In the conditions of the Cold War, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordanwere supported by the armed forces of the USSR, while Israel and Europe gothelp from the United States.
On October 17, Arab countries announced that OPEC washalting oil supplies to the United States, Japan, Europe (Great Britain,France, and Holland). The market reacted instantly: the price of oil over thenext 12 months increased four times - from $ 3 to $ 12.
In North America and European countries, industrialproduction is reduced by 48% - strikes begin. The jump in prices for gasolineand diesel fuel, the refusal of citizens from cars, the reduction in the numberof flights by almost two times affected the state of the stock markets. The capitalization of the New York StockExchange decreased by 45% while the London Stock Exchange Index fell by 73%.
The peak fall in stock indices occurred on October 29,1973. The decline in the S&P 500 lasted 27 days and amounted to 17.1%. Thereturn of the UK stock market to the pre-crisis level occurred in 1987, whilethe United States managed to finally overcome the consequences of the crisisonly in 1993.
3.Iran hostage crisis
Collapse date:October 5, 1979
Recession Period: 24days
Prerequisites for the next stock market crash began totake shape at the beginning of 1979. In January, the Islamic Revolution tookplace in Iran. Power in the country was captured by radical Shiites led byAyatollah Khomeini. The new government has reduced oil production: now, thecountry began to provide only its own needs, although, before the change ofgovernment, it provided 5% of the global supply of oil.
Relations with the United States were strained: ontheir territory, under the pretext of treatment, the former shah had takenrefuge with leukemia. As a result, on November 4, 1979, a crowd of studentsseized the US Embassy in Tehran and took 66 people hostage demanding theextradition of the fugitive ruler to his homeland. Later, 14 people werereleased, and the rest were imprisoned for 444 days.
US President Jim Carters responsive measures werestrict. He blocked Iranian assets stored in US banks and introduced a ban onthe import of Iranian oil. Economic sanctions did not solve the hostageproblem, and the Eagle Claw military operation was a failure.
Soon after, the second oil shock started: negativeexpectations regarding oil supplies led to an increase in oil prices from 1214to $ 3645 per barrel. The stock market immediately responded to the crisis inthe national economy: the S&P 500 index fell 10.2% in 24 days. The first signsof the transition to the bull market appeared only in 51 days, but the economyrecovered successfully.
Collapse date:October 13, 1987
Since 1982, the US stock market has maintained abullish position. Growth began to slow by 1986. The inflation rate declined,and experts unanimously reiterated that a new economic "boom" wascoming. Exchange trading intensified: from January 1985 to October 1987, andthe Dow Jones index grew twofold.
An unprecedented collapse began on October 13, 1987:the New York Stock Exchange Index fell by 22.6%. The peak of the recessionoccurred on October 19. The causes of the collapse included:
The market was overestimated by experts, and thepsychology of investors played a cruel joke - the active growth of the DowJones index forced them to sell assets in droves. The exchange could not stand theheat, and the recession began.
The crisis spread to the Hong Kong stock exchanges(index drop - 45.8%), Canada (22.5%), Australia (41.8%), Great Britain (26.4%).
The reaction of the S&P 500 pronounced into adecrease of 28.5% in just five days. The return period from the bear marketto the bull was 398 days.
5.The first Gulf War on January 1, 1991
Collapse Date:January 1, 1991
The military conflict between Iraq and Kuwait is knownnot only for the unprecedented use of aviation but also for its influence onworld stock trading. In 1988-1990, stock markets were growing steadily: indicesincreased over two years by an average of 50%. Oil prices were stable and keptat $20 per barrel.
In July 1990, Iraq began to draw military units to theKuwait border. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 indices sag by 5-10%, and by theend of the year, the collapse rate reached 20%. The threat of war is becoming apparent the growth of oil prices is predictable.
The peak of the stock market fall occurred on January1, 1990: the S&P 500 then lost 5.7%. The recession lasted six days. Thegradual return of trading to its former positions began with the launch ofOperation Desert Storm on January 17. The conflict did not affect long-termstock market trends.
6.Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001
Collapse date:September 11, 2001
On September 11, a group of 19 specially trainedterrorists from the al-Qaeda organization captured four passenger airliners inorder to carry out the most significant terrorist attack in the history of theplanet. During the operation, both buildings of the World Trade Center weredestroyed. Many office buildings in Manhattan were affected.
Due to a malfunction of telecommunication equipmentfrom September 11 to September 17, 2001, the following events happened:
The value of shares on the New York Stock Exchangelost $ 1.2 trillion. Under these conditions, the S&P 500 decreased by 11.6%from September 11 to September 17. The bull market was returned in 8 days.
7.Atypical pneumonia (SARS) 2003
Collapse Date:January 14, 2003
Recession Period: 39days
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people often recall theSARS epidemic (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, SARS) that broke out in2002 and, in 2003, had a major impact on stock markets.
SARS virus was first detected in November 2002 in theChinese province of Guangdong. The epidemic has spread to 30 countries. Of the8,400 cases, 813 died.
The economic consequences of the epidemic were thefollowing:
The crisis, caused by a 5.8% reduction in worldproduction and a significant influence of China on the global economy, led to aslow collapse of US stock trading at the end of 2002. By mid-January, the DowJones Index fell 22.1%.
The S&P 500 recession lasted more than a month and,at its peak, reached 14.1%. The fall lasted 39 days, but the market managed toregain its previous positions only in March 2003.
8.Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy
Crash Date:September 15, 2008
Recession Period: ~180days
On September 5, 2008, Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largestinvestment bank in the United States, filed for bankruptcy. The collapse of oneof America's oldest financial institutions with 160 years of history, withoutexaggeration, produced the effect of an exploding bomb. In one day, the DowJones stock index crashed by 500 points - such a New York stock exchange hasnot experienced since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Lossescontinued until March 5, 2009, when the Dow closed at 6,594.44. That was a 53%drop from its peak of 14,164.53 on October 10, 2007. The S&P 500 closed at1,192.69, its lowest close in nearly three years. Within a few days, thefinancial crisis affected the markets of the United States, and soon after -the whole world.
On September 16, 2008, the American insurance companyAIG was on the verge of bankruptcy due to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, andthe US government spent $ 180 billion on the nationalization. On September 18,Lloyds (Britain) was forced to agree to a merge with the HBOS. On October 12,the new bank The Lloyds Group and at the same time Royal Bank of Scotland werenationalized. In October 2008, the US Treasury Department allocated $ 00billion to support the banking system and the automotive industry.
In spring 2009, the new administration of Barack Obamaallocated $787 billion to stimulate the economy, which went into a sharp peakafter the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Thanks to the active intervention ofthe monetary authorities of the United States, Europe, and Japan, theconsequences of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers were able to compensate.
9.The global financial crisis or the Great Recession
Crash Date:October 10, 2008
Recession Period: 356days
The largest drop in stock markets in the history ofexchange trading is the Great Recession 2007-2009. The crisis pronounced in thefollowing events:
Among the causes of the crisis are financialderivatives - derivative securities, yield, which depends on the magnitude ofthe risk. Up to 40% of investments in the financial and construction sectorscame from them, which created an artificial bubble.
The financial crisis in the United States contaminatedother countries: the collapse affected the housing, financial, and commoditymarkets. In October 2008, the MSCI World index (developed economies) fell by32.2%, and the MSCI Emerging Markets index (developing economies) fell by40.5%.
On October 10, 2008, the collapse of the Dow JonesIndex in just a day was 6.6%. During the year of the crisis, the S&P 500decreased by 56.8%. For almost three years, the US stock market has beenoperating in a bearish mode.
10.Intervention in Libya in 2011
Crash Date:February 18, 2011
Recession Period: 18days
In 2011, NATO forces invaded Libyan territory underthe pretext of protecting civilians in a civil war. The war in theoil-producing region of the Middle East repeated the scenario of two wars inthe Persian Gulf. Oil prices rose from $ 99.7 to $ 120.9 per barrel, which wasdue to the complete paralysis of Libyan oil refineries and a reduction in blackgold production by eight times. US government spending on a military operationwas estimated at $600-800 million, and US corporation losses were more than $50 billion.
The fall in the markets was short-term and ended inMarch 2011 - even before the bombing of the country and the assassination ofGaddafi. In general terms, the recession of the S&P 500 index amounted to6.4% and lasted 18 days. A month later, the market returned to its previouspositions.
11.Voting for UK withdrawal from EU (Brexit)
Collapse Date: June8, 2016
Recession Period: 14days
In June 2016, 52% of the UK population expressed adesire to leave the European Union. Later, an agreement was signed that byDecember 31, 2020, Britain would withdraw its troops from the EU and cease toparticipate in its political processes. However, it will retain its place inthe Customs Union and within the framework of a single market.
The transition process of the country's exit in June2016 to the economic consequences manifested into several sequences. Over themonth, the pound sterling fell by 10% against the US dollar and by 7% againstthe Euro. In just one day (June 5), the London Stock Exchange Index (FTSE 100)fell 3%.
A few days later, the collapse reached the exchangetrading in the USA: the bear tendency started ruling the market, which resultedin a reduction of the S&P 500 by 5.6%. Nine days after, the exchange beganto rise.
12.COVID-19 the new danger
Collapse Date:February 19, 2020
Recession Period: 19days
The current situation with coronavirus pandemiccouldnt leave stock markets unaffected. The reduction of the S&P 500 indexby 29.5% took just 19 days. At the moment, the success of exchange trading isvolatile: on March 13, the indicator increased by 12% but lost 2-4% per dayafterward.
The reasons for the next financial crisis caused bythe COVID-19 pandemic are:
The global stock market crash started on February 19,2020. The Dow Jones, S&P 500 and NASDAQ-100 indices lose 2-3% over the next30 days for each daily session.
On BlackMonday, March 9th, all three indicators (Dow Jones, S&P 500 and NASDAQ-100)declined in just a day by more than 7%: this recession was recognized as themost disastrous since the 2007 crisis.
Didthe market hit the new lows?
The disastrous effects of the pandemic on the stockmarket are hard to overestimate. Heres what happened:
The dynamics of the VIX index showed that this timethe market participants were even more scared than in 2008. In mid-March, theVIX soared to its peak in 2008, and its quarterly growth by 289% was the mostsignificant since 1990 for which data are available.
Given the global adverse socio-economic impact ofCOVID-19, it is too early to talk about the revival of the bull market trends.For some economies, it will take months or even years to recover.
The current state of the stock market causes panicamong investors. Trading expert Warren Buffett recommends players to focus onthe long term profits: volatility is temporary, the bull trend will berestored, and patient investors will be rewarded. The above-mentioned storiesof crises prove that. For some, the fall of stock quotes for someone means ruinand collapse, while for others, it provides the opportunity to buy shares oflarge, profitable, and stable companies cheaply.
Follow this link:
Posted: at 12:48 am
THE HORIZON BY KAYODE KOMOLAFE
Experts and non-experts now freely talk of the takeaways in the discussion of the harsh lessons that the novel coronavirus is teaching humanity.As nations, private organisations and individuals grapple with the socio-economic consequences of the virus one of the obvious takeaways is that ultimately development is to be measured by the quality of the lives of all the human beings in any geo-political space.
You will notice if this takeaway is being ignored when you examine the priority being given to the worsening inequality in the land.Taking a global look at this big issue before humanity recently, Nobelist Amartya Sen observed as follows: In the policies against the present pandemic, equity has not been a particularly noticeable priority. This, of course is characteristically a weak point of capitalist economic management anywhere in the world. In making a case for the consideration of equity in the recovery efforts, the eminent Indian economist strikes the same chord as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2020 Human Development Perspectives.
In the report, a link is established between COVID-19 and human development like this: The pandemic was superimposed on unresolved tensions between people and technology, between people and the planet, between the haves and the have-nots. These tensions were already shaping a new generation of inequalitiespertaining to enhanced capabilities, the new necessities of the 21st century, as defined in the 2019 Human Development Report. But the response to the crisis can shape how those tensions are addressed and whether inequalities in human development are reduced.The approach adopted in the report is to assess the capability of poor people to be part of the development process. For instance, the report examines the ultimate impact of the current school closures on development of children from various backgrounds.
Nigeria is ranked 158th out of 189 countries surveyed in the 2019 Human Development Index.This ranking should not be a surprise to the government and the people alike. The indices of poverty and inequality are glaring enough in the socio-economic landscape.
This crisis has certainly brought to the fore the centrality of equity to human development.At least, one chilling fact thrown up by this crisis is that even when all the fundamental of the economy look fine in the eyes of the experts, the political economy remains vulnerable in the absence of policies that could bolster human development. Experts will measure progress in terms of growth rates, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), ratings, and what is happening at the stock exchange. On a more insensitive note, some would even interpret recovery to mean the restoration of the conspicuous consumption of the elite increasing the fleet of private jets and luxury cars, building more uninhabited mansions and importing more choice wines and spirits.
However, you cannot seriously talk of human development when millions of the population have no access to potable water and open defaecation is still a serious issue because elementary questions of sanitation are yet answered.
It is worrisome that the nation seems to be missing the takeaway from this crisis on a central question of development. There is the urgent need to rethink policy in respect of human development beyond tokenism. This point could be distilled into practical terms when you scrutinise the policy emphasis given to the social sector as huge contracts are awarded for landmark projects.
So, the point at issue here is the prioritisation of education and health, two major components of the social sector. It has to be so if ignorance and disease are to be fought squarely in the war against poverty and crippling underdevelopment. This is the greatest project any government can ever execute in the present of context of mass poverty and misery in Nigeria. For you cannot be talking of making progress in human development in a population that includes millions of illiterate and unhealthy people.
All the aspects of the problem of the social sector should, therefore, be given attention in the current recovery efforts. Funding the sector remains an ideologically controversial issue globally. The consequences of the budgetary neglect of universal healthcare are already on display even in the advanced capitalist countries.
In Nigeria, the coronavirus crisis is superimposed on the age-long crisis of the social sector, to borrow the word of UNDP. A meagre 0.3% of the countrys GDP is reportedly budgeted on health while some of the figures for education were said to be unavailable for the global survey.The coded message of the report is that funding is crucial to provide the sorely needed infrastructure and facilities for healthcare and education as the basis of development.
However, an aspect of the problem often ignored is the condition of the engine on which the healthcare and education systems operate. The systems cannot operate to ensure good delivery of service when the engine is increasingly threatened with knocking. Here are talking of the workforce school teachers, professors, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, technologists, scientists, auxiliary staff administrators etc. This system simply does not care enough for the well-being of the human beings whose duty it is to operate the system for human development. There is a tinge of irony in this situation, you would probably say.
Take the intangible first. The government and the society in general do not accord enough respect to those who labour day and night to keep the system running. This is a symptom of a perverted value system. The idea of success and relevance itself is highly upended. It is not just happenstance that the health and education professionals mentioned in the foregoing are among the greatest targets of brain drain. Countries elsewhere value the services of these workforce as gold to sustain their respective health and education systems. Here, their labour is viewed as iron that could rust. The conditions of service in the social sectorare utterly disabling.
In elementary moral terms, the very rude language of officialdom when addressing professionals who still sustain healthcare and education in Nigeria is simply unacceptable. The jobs of professors and doctors used to be viewed as exemplars of distinguished careers to inspire the youth. Not anymore! The definition of a lucrative career has since changed as the society itself gets disoriented.
If funding healthcare delivery and education is paradoxically controversial, the remuneration of the workforce in the sector is tragically treated with levity. Governors and ministers gleefully threaten the workforce in the social sector on television with mass sack. You wonder if these men wielding transient power ever remember that they were once treated by Nigerian doctors and taught by Nigerian professors.Sheer official braggadocio is what is unfortunately offered instead of workable policies to improve the skills of the workforce with decent remuneration so that the sector would be optimally and capably staffed.
Agreements reached with the unions and professional associations in the sector are routinely ignored by governments at all levels as they claim to be moving the nation forward. The other day, a member of the House of Representatives, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, commendably told his fellow lawmakers the truth about the lingering dispute between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU): the government treats agreements negotiated for years with contempt.
This official disposition has been at the root of the crisis bedevilling the Nigerian university for decades. The state capriciously jettisons meaningful engagements and opts for raw arrogance of power. Over a dozen ministers of education in successive administrations in the last 30 years have been talking down on university teachers. It has hardly occurred to the ministers, many of whom are products of Nigerian universities, that their imperial approach would not solve the problem. Yes, ASUU has committed a number of tactical errors in its legitimate strategic struggle to save the university education from total decay. The government and its policy advisers are also right in challenging ASUU and other stakeholders in the society to be creative in answering the knotty question: how can universities be adequately and sustainably funded? Yet, the official mantra that government cannot fund quality university education alone, is hardly an adequate response to the crisis. A government that can budget N37 billion to renovate the parliamentary building in the midst of economic crunch while claiming that government cannot sufficiently fund university education is not on the path of human development. Imagine N37 billion shared equally among the six oldest universities to finance specific projects to enhance academic excellence!There is something wrong with a culture of development in which paralysing strikes in the health and education systems are no more perceived as a matter of emergency by either the government or the people. News of strikes in schools and hospitals hardly hit the headlines in the media nowadays.
This societal culture of perceiving disruptions in public hospitals and schools as normal is socially retrogressive. It is even more morally reprehensible on the part of the elite in power and outside power: they make private arrangements at home and abroad for their own healthcare and the education of their children while public health and education systems are left to collapse. It is a feature of a selfish society. Little wonder, not a few observers of the current crisis have described coronavirus as an equaliser of sorts. The poor and the rich are now bound to face the consequences of an abysmally neglected health sector.
The truth that those in power hate to hear is that the problem of the social sector will not be solved until those who work in the sector are happy and fulfilled
When will it be said that its a new day for human development?It should be a day when development is measured, among other things, by the happiness and job satisfaction of the workforce that could promote excellence in public hospitals and schools.
Posted: at 12:48 am
The decision by the Trump administration on April 22nd to effectively freeze immigration flows into the United States is the latest in a series of moves by that government to restrict immigration. In Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a partial border closure that has disproportionately impacted refugees and been criticized by several human rights watchdogs including Amnesty International. In recent months, Canada also temporarily halted the flow of refugees travelling here from the US, stranding many asylum seekers.
While Canadians may take some comfort in knowing that Canadas federal government has attempted to limit the impact of the current border closure, we should nevertheless learn from these experiences and pause to consider how the current pandemic and future ones might impact refugee policy. How can policy-makers balance very real health concerns with their obligations to protect refugees, whose need has not dissipated and whose circumstances may well be increasingly precarious due to COVID-19 outbreaks in their countries of origin?
Intermittent border closures may be a necessary component of the governments response to pandemics, but we have little experience with such measures in a globalized world. Just as open borders must be carefully managed to balance health and security issues against economic and human rights concerns, so must closed borders. Canada needs a comprehensive border closure strategy for our new and still-changing times.
When it comes to refugee policy, liberal democratic receiving states often face duelling pressures: upholding the rights of refugees while at the same time controlling their borders and processing applications competently and efficiently. The COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges on both counts that policy-makers must respond to in the coming weeks and months. Yet these new challenges also foreshadow long-term trends that will persist for decades due to future pandemics and climate change: new types of refugees, and peaks and valleys of migration flows in response to intermittent border closures.
More reasons to flee
For years, wealthy democracies have responded to humanitarian crises by hosting refugees from conflict zones as well as sending development aid and peacekeepers to these areas. Devised in the wake of the genocides committed in Europe and Asia during the Second World War, the Refugee Convention was meant to provide protection for people fleeing persecution. However, the spectre of a global pandemic that threatens prosperity or even basic economic stability and requires the suspension of international travel is a serious game-changer for refugee protection.
Like climate change, pandemics pose a global risk that could disproportionately impact developing countries. Since February, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in many countries with world-class health care systems and high-functioning state infrastructures. One can only imagine how COVID-19 may critically weaken or even devastate public services in countries with high levels of conflict, socio-economic inequality or corruption. The World Health Organization is already projecting that African countries could be severely hit by COVID-19.
To meet this new challenge, the cabinet can do a lot with targeted development aid. However, given the long-term trajectory of forced migration, Canadas policy-makers must anticipate receiving people who are fleeing displacement not because of persecution but because of pandemics, climate change and natural disasters that will make it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for people to return to their countries of origin.
The federal government should direct Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to identify a new category of potential refugee-sending countries: those in high-impact zones that have seen their public infrastructure collapse because of a pandemic or other crisis. As with previous refugee-producing crises, IRCC and GAC should consider collaborating with civil society groups to sponsor individuals from such high-risk zones as refugees to Canada or easing requirements for family reunification for Canadians with relatives from such places.
While the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act establishes a legal framework for accepting people escaping persecution, Canada has also extended protection to those fleeing other desperate situations, such as the refugees from a major earthquake that devastated Haiti 10 years ago. Furthermore, the government has already done research on the likelihood of people fleeing the effects of climate change and signed the United Nations Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which requires signatory countries to identify, develop and strengthen solutions for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin due to slow-onset natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation. At present, this agreement has not been codified into Canadian law. The federal government led by IRCC should work with advocacy groups such as the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers to update the existing legal framework to accept climate change refugees as well as those fleeing natural disasters and pandemics.
Managing waves of migration
Periodic border closures complicate flows of forced migration by incentivizing migrants to arrive in larger numbers while host countries borders are open. The implications for government agencies that handle immigration are significant. Managing administrative capacity keeping visas and refugee claims running smoothly through the departmental machinery is critical not only for carrying out policy goals but also to ward off negative political impacts that could undermine public support for hosting refugees. When governments are perceived to be losing control over immigration because of backlogs or bungling, it is not hard for critics of the government (including but not limited to far-right parties) to trigger public anger and anti-refugee sentiment. Despite Canadas tradition as an immigrant nation, it is not immune from such public backlashes. The significant number of Canadians expressing frustration with the Trudeau governments willingness to admit tens of thousands of asylum seekers from the US since 2017 is a case in point.
For this reason, ensuring that Canadas immigration bureaucracy can keep up with surges in applications is essential especially during pandemics, when the movement of people can easily provoke public fear and anxiety. Policy-makers could effectively manage increased administrative pressures by developing a strategy for closing and opening the border that involves civil society organizations who have been essential partners in helping develop and implement Canadas immigration and refugee policies. Specifically, lawyers, NGOs and community organizations have provided channels for gathering information about refugee flows and developments in source countries that is critical for ensuring that policy is applied equitably.
In the past, the cabinet has commissioned independent reviews to assess the impact of procedural changes to immigration and refugee policy. The federal government should appoint a similar commission of policy experts from IRCC and civil society to study two core aspects of refugee policy: first, how immigration procedures can be improved to operate effectively during periods of open and closed borders; and, second, to what extent Canadas existing settlement services and infrastructure need to be altered in order to comply with social distancing measures and adapt to the changed economy. Finally, IRCC and the Canada Border Services Agency should establish facilities and recruit medical staff at all ports of entry before the border is reopened so that they can screen all international travellers, including refugees.
Many of the administrative capacity and rights issues associated with refugee policy stem from governments and migrants of all sorts reacting to uncertainty. In developing a comprehensive border closure strategy, the government can work with civil society to reduce uncertainty and set clear expectations. An expansion of Canadas categories of refugees is also needed, to acknowledge new global realities. No government may be able to predict what events will unfold, but Canada can utilize the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to update its immigration and refugee policies in order to meet similar challenges we are likely to face in the coming years.
This article is part of theThe Coronavirus Pandemic: Canadas Responsespecial feature.
Photo:A Rohingya family wear masks to protect from the COVID-19 pandemic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 27, 2020. Shutterstock/By YuriAbas
Posted: at 12:48 am
In 1979, Justice Bhagwati accepted a postcard as a PIL from a prisoner in Tihar jail, who had written to the Supreme court reporting an incident of torture perpetrated on a fellow prisoner. Justice Bhagwati had famously remarked that the court must "provide access to justice to large masses of people who were denied basic human rights, to whom freedom and liberty had no meaning. A 25-paise postcard set constitutional law in motion.
Almost four decades later, on May 16, 2020 in a horrific incident when migrant labourers sleeping on railway tracks are mowed down by a goods train due to government apathy, the same court lets out a helpless "how can we stop it?"
The highest institution of Justice in India tells us on March 25 2020, this fear and panic is a bigger problem than this virus. (Albeit that was also a statement of the New York Governor Mr. Andrew Cuomo, on 19th March, 2020 while addressing the lockdown protocol during Covid-19 in New York!)
As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, India is faced with an additional humanitarian crisis: unprecedented flight of migrant workers from different parts of the country to their villages. Reports from the ground have suggested desperate times. Over the last two months those worst affected during this humanitarian crisis were primarily migrant labourers divided by caste and religion, toyed by the government to contribute to its vote bank, representing almost 70% of the Indian Population, yet they remained nameless and faceless.
Extreme heat, pangs of hunger from days of walking with no food, dehydration, humiliation and with uncertainty looming over their heads they soldiered on. Over 130 migrants got killed in various road accidents during the lockdown and many others died due to lack of basic provisions in poorly organised relief camps or in-transit, separated from their families; longing for the respite promised by the Government, the respite which was deemed to be their socio-economic right by virtue of being a citizen of India, their right to be protected by the Constitution of India helmed by the Supreme Court of India- but they were FAILED.
Yet, it is reported that 937 Shramik special trains have operated to ferry over 11 lakh migrants, 37,978 relief camps have been set up by states and Union Territories, where 14.3 lakh are being sheltered. Further, nearly 1.34 crore people are being fed through 26,225 food camps, 16.5 lakh workers were provided with housing facilities by their employers.
One knows that the hallowed portals of Supreme Justice in India exhibit signs of Judicial deference to the Legislature with willingness to transfer judges unpalatable to the Executive, the manner in which the issues of Kashmir, unbridled arrests under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the anti- Citizenship Amendment Act agitations have been dealt with are examples of this. But then what can we expect when a Chief Justice of India, presides over his own hearing concerning allegations of sexual harassment?
Well, one can only expect worse, when despite the fact that millions of rupees are getting collected in the name of certain care funds to provide relief to the migrants and needy the worst affected by Covid-19, most get spent on advertising campaigns for a the leading political party, and when questioned on what money can get transferred directly to the migrants, we are told - You yourself know, we cant order what you are demanding. You say there are 4 crore people. How can we order `5,000 per person? We dont have the documents you are referring to! How can we pass directions to make any payment? If we have to pass all the directions that are there in your petition, we will have to start running the government, (The Delhi Government had announced INR 5000 for each migrant worker on April 12th 2020) and apparently, the government is also concerned about the migrant workers. The government is consulting states as to how many of them have to be transported to their states and how many have to be given help and what kind of help, (April 27 2020)
In a series of blatant lies masquerading as the Centre's argument, the Solicitor General of India had argued before the Supreme Court on March 31 that "anyone who is outside has been taken to the available shelters" and that there is "no person walking on the roads in an attempt to reach his/her home-towns". It is against this backdrop that the top court had said that it is impossible for courts to monitor the movement of migrant workers across the country. In contrast, as many as 19 High Courts of India offered some redemption to the justice system by raising concern over migrant labour walking back. This seemed to have irked the Solicitor General, as alluding to the activism shown by these courts, he remarked that, "some High Courts are running a parallel government".
When the Supreme Court, on Thursday, after more than two months, finally took suo motu cognizance of the condition of migrant labourers, the Solicitor General concluded by saying "I have something more to say as an officer of the court. I have a complaint. A large number of steps were taken by the government and the Supreme Court was fully satisfied about it earlier. But we have something called prophets of doom who only spread negativity, negativity, and negativity. All these people writing on social media, giving interviews, cannot even acknowledge what is being doneThey are not showing any courtesy to the nation. A slew of personal attacks followed, branding all those who had brought the plight of migrant workers before them as "vultures of doom".
The simple "complaint" reeks of apathy, insensitivity and adds insult to injury in the migrant labourers crisis which is being called "the greatest exodus since partition" in the international headlines. The least that is expected of us as humans, if not as "officers of the court", is empathy for the hundreds of migrant workers trudging unbelievable distances home on foot. As Dushyant Dave, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association has highlighted: "Can you imagine every migrant family walking on the roads and what they must be going through? What suffering they must be going through and what feelings they must be harbouring in their hearts about this nation, which has completely failed them and left them to fend for themselves?"
What is to be seen is if the submission by the Solicitor General to the SC in March and less credible arguments by him on May 29 2020, will he be held in contempt, for lowering the respect for Supreme Judiciary? The SGs outburst draws attention to the SCs silence. It would be unfortunate, indeed, if the SGs unwise and mean-spirited exuberance is allowed to be seen to, in some way, or in any way, be endorsed by the highest court.
Our founding fathers had a very different vision for India, one with which the India of today-- the India in which thousands of its people are suffering in the face of an apathetic government and judiciary-- is in sharp contrast. A prominent freedom fighter had once said, The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. The fourth pillar of our democracy needs to stand strong in these turbulent times-- impartial and fearless as its legacy has been-- or the very framework of our democracy may collapse.
What should have happened was Under the Disaster Management Act, a national plan should be prepared by the National Executive Committee, which was then approved by the NDMA. Section 12 of the national plan has guidelines for minimum standards of relief which the National authority has to recommend. The minimum standards include shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation, but shockingly, till date no minimum standards have been set up for any of these categories.
As Justice Khanna had aptly remarked Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Governments purposes are beneficent [the] greatest danger to liberty lies in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but lacking in due deference for the rule of law.
Oh, by the way, also coming in from various Prophets of Doom that the Ram Mandir construction has started in Ayodhya on May 26, 2020, with a budget rumoured to be to the tune of INR 10,000 crores. Walls of secrecy seem to be crumbling now with an RTI application getting the following response from the PMO, the PM CARES Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, relevant information in respect of the fund may be seen on the website pmcares.gov.in. It comes as no surprise that, no such information (please read as nil transparency!) is available on the official website. Just goes to show how much our PM Cares!
By denying the status of 'public authority' it is a big blow to transparency and not to mention our democratic values. #MoneyHeist??
Covid-19 and the Government are beyond logic! Stay home!
(Madhukar Jetley is Member Legislative Council of Uttar Pradesh. The views expressed are personal)
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The Analytical Angle: How smart containment, along with active learning, can help mitigate the Covid-19 crisis – DAWN.com
Posted: April 18, 2020 at 7:07 pm
Policymakers must be empowered down to the district levels to respond differentially based on local data.
Governments across the world face a near impossible choice in tackling the Covid-19 virus lockdown and prevent spread, but risk economic collapse and potentially many dying of non-Covid-19 reasons, or remain (mostly) open to minimise the socio-economic fallout, but risk many dying of Covid-19.
To make matters worse, there is little data to base a policy response on. Our knowledge of this new virus (transmission mechanisms, environmental triggers, immunity, etc) is still nascent and fast evolving. We also dont know enough about the potential adverse socio-economic and health impacts of the proposed public health policies. While many countries in the developed world have gone down the route of blanket lockdowns, for others, the choice is harder to make.
Physical distancing and locking down will be particularly damaging for the developing world. In Pakistan, much of the economy is informal. According to the Labour Force Survey 2017-18, the informal sector accounts for 72 per cent of non-agricultural employment. This makes it harder to target and provide financial assistance to those who may need it most.
Loss of livelihood and severe financial hardships may be accompanied by food shortages. In South Asia, food supply chains are dominated by labour-intensive SMEs. This means that extended lockdowns and quarantines may result in food supply disruptions especially in midstream and downstream segments retail, food service, distribution.
Health issues which require regular care are widely prevalent in Pakistan. The World Health Organisation characterises Pakistan as a TB high-burden country with the fourth highest prevalence of multi-drug resistant TB globally. In young children, diarrhoea is still a major killer, and malnutrition and stunting are persistent problems. Maternal deaths due to preventable causes prevail and half of women of reproductive age are anaemic.
The impact of Covid-19 policies on an already weak and over-stressed healthcare system must be well thought out. Managing health conditions in a lockdown may be difficult. Conversely, easing distancing measures may be too risky as the high prevalence of these health conditions in some populations makes them highly vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus.
Fiscal space is severely limited for adequate relief measures and countercyclical policies which will be required as the economy comes to a grinding halt. Weak state capacity may also make it nearly impossible to implement and enforce a country-wide lockdown, while ensuring all citizens are taken care of.
Understandably, these are very tough decisions to make. While the fear of uncontrolled spread and mortality eventually pushed the government out of paralysis, at times it also led to panic and poorly thought out decisions. The decision to expand the Ehsaas programme, for example, was a good one but the execution was poorly thought out with massive crowding outside distribution points.
The decision to ease the lockdown and open up some industries is also a controversial one especially with little transparency on the criteria being used to strengthen or ease the lockdowns.
In Pakistan this crisis has also become politicised resulting in misalignment of strategies across government tiers. The enormity of this challenge requires cooperation rather than tribalism. Our leaders need to work together to save lives and build resilient systems for the long-term.
Up till now the choice has largely been presented as a binary: Lockdown and prevent spread but risk economic collapse, loss of livelihoods, and deaths from other preventable reasons; or remain open to minimise this socioeconomic disaster, but risk health systems buckling and thousands dying from the virus.
Read: A better response to the Covid-19 challenge lies in smart lockdown strategies
Given the dearth of data, however, we are driving blind: we just dont know enough about the health and economic impact to figure out the trade-offs between these choices. How can we make better decisions in the face of such great uncertainty?
The crux of our approach is the importance of learning. Governments must draw on a well-developed and well-tested machinery for how to make decisions under uncertainty. Policy actions should inform our learning so that policies are tested and refined in real-time. This is what we call smart containment with active learning.
While some decisions must be made immediately (such as, increasing testing capacity and personal protective equipment for health workers), others may be better made after collecting some information (such as, socio-economic data to better target the relief response). Many decisions may also be refined over time as more information comes in (such as, which specific aspects of distancing and lockdown strategies are most effective).
The smart containment approach allows for a locally heterogeneous policy response each area may have different prevalence, and different needs based on demographic, economic and other characteristics. For example, areas with high population densities or areas with high-risk health characteristics such as high incidence of TB, may need to be treated differently.
Policymakers must be empowered down to the district and local levels to respond differentially based on local data and ground realities. These ground realities then translate into differential and graded decisions on smart testing strategies, physical distancing and lockdown measures, relief measures, public messaging, health sector capacity, and so on.
The active learning aspect calls for re-evaluating policy measures regularly based on data and evidence. This will help us better understand the benefits and costs of each policy and refine accordingly. This process of continuous re-evaluation can provide a roadmap for the next 18 months that is fully guided by the evidence.
The roadmap should inform the design of physical distancing measures and enable better targeting of support measures to rebuild the economy and society.
Consider the two contrasting policy choices (a) a weaker lockdown where there is isolation, contact tracing and care for those who are sick but there is also a degree of freedom of movement to allow essential workers, such as food producers and distributors, to continue their work, or (b) strict quarantines and physical isolation which will require massive investments in maintaining food chains, ensuring necessities for every family and providing critical care for those who need it.
Up till now, decisions have been made in the face of substantial uncertainty without any clear guidelines for how those decisions should be made to resolve the uncertainty as rapidly as possible. The approach we recommend incorporates prior information and multidisciplinary expertise in a structured fashion and enables real-time data responsiveness.
The Analytical Angle is a monthly column where top researchers bring rigorous evidence to policy debates in Pakistan. The series is a collaboration between the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan and Dawn.com. The views expressed are the authors alone.
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Posted: at 7:07 pm
We will not and cannot return to the world as it was before the pandemic struck. We must rebuild societies that are better, more resilient and we must do so together.Secretary General Antonio Guterres
The unprecedented crisis triggered by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, has focused the full attention of the United Nations System (UN) on a strategy of rapid response and recovery. In the words of the UN Secretary-General, this pandemic is the worst global crisis since World War II. The IMFs World Economic Outlook frames the depth of the current global economic recession as the deepest since the Great Depression.
I. Introduction: The COVID Response
The UNs efforts to help save lives and protect people from the COVID-19 pandemic focus on three critical components, all led by each countrys Resident Coordinator: the health response, coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO); the humanitarian response, coordinated by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); and the socio-economic response, coordinated by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in close collaboration with all UN agencies in 162 countries and territories.
In a recent report entitled Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General calls for a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response that amounts to at least 10 per cent of GDP. The size of this commitment requires an open discussion about debt relief in all developing countries in fragile/crisis contexts, in low and middle-income countries as well as in Small Island Developing States.
While its impact will vary from country to country, Covid-19 will likely increase poverty and inequalities at a global scale. According to the UN International Labour Organization, working hours are projected to decline by 6.7% in Q2 (2020), equivalent to 195 million full-time workers, with the world losing between $860 billion to $3.4 trillion in labor income. The UN Conference on Trade and Development projects 30 to 40 per cent downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows. The World Tourism Organization sees a 2030 per cent decline in international arrivals. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization forecasts that 1.5 billion students will be out of school. Inequality of access to broadband connectivity and inaccessibility of ICTs hinders effective remote participation and access to remote schooling arrangements, health information and telemedicine by all. According to the International Telecommunication Union, an estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, with most of the unconnected living in the least developed countries.
To operationalise the UN Secretary-Generals report, the UN development system has developed a socio-economic response framework and has switched into emergency mode. A significant portion of the UNs existing portfolio of sustainable development programmes of a total of $17.8 billion across all the SDGs is being adjusted and expanded towards COVID-19 related needs, in close collaboration with programme countries, donors and partners.
II. The Socio-Economic Response
The UNs response to the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis considers a variety of interlinked dimensions that need to be addressed in an integrated manner to protect the needs and rights of people living under the duress of the pandemic, with particular focus on the most vulnerable countries, groups, and people who risk being left behind.
1. HEALTH FIRST: PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN THE HEALTH SYSTEM: Health systems are being overwhelmed by demand for services generated by the COVID-19 outbreak. When health systems collapse, both direct mortality from the outbreak and avertable mortality from vaccine and other care interventions, preventable and treatable conditions increase dramatically. At least half of the worlds population still do not have full coverage of essential health services and about 100 million people are still being pushed into extreme poverty (defined as living on 1.90 USD or less a day) because they have to pay for health care. Over 930 million people (around 12% of the worlds population) spend at least 10% of their household budgets to pay for health care.
Countries with the weakest health systems stand before huge challenges in all these aspects. There must be immediate, targeted actions to allow countries to maintain essential lifesaving health services even as they surge to meet the spike in demand for acute care. And there must be a complementary effort on health systems recovery, preparedness and strengthening with a focus on primary health care and Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Massive investment in health will be needed for both, maintaining services and to strengthen preparedness of health systems to respond to future waves of COVID-19 and future global outbreaks.
2. PROTECT PEOPLE: SOCIAL PROTECTION AND BASIC SERVICES: The COVID-19 crisis impacts the worlds poorest and most vulnerable. The crisis will devastate incomes and access to basic services with intergenerational implications for families on multidimensional poverty and inequality. Many governments are responding to the crisis by expanding existing programmes, but 4 billion people accounting for 71% of the world population, including 2 out of 3 children have no or inadequate social protection to start with. Therefore, the scope of the challenges ahead requires an extraordinary scale up of the response. Those with informal or unstable employment, entrepreneurs and those working in the service industry (majority women) are most affected, with only 1 in 5 unemployed persons able to avail of unemployment benefits. Social protection responses must consider differentiated impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups and women and men.
Access to social services is being curtailed either through reduction in services or in access. Key areas include: (a) Food and Nutrition: The disruption of markets impacts on the quality of diets and nutrition practices, which translate into an increase of mortality, morbidity and malnutrition among the population groups with the highest nutrition needs; (b) Education: About 90% of the total number of school children in the world have been directly affected by school closures, with an estimated 370 million school children also missing out on school meals. Adolescent girls already lack access to secondary education and are at heightened risk; (c) Water and sanitation: WASH services will be affected with public utilities potentially facing less than optimal staffing and available workforce, disrupted supply chains, and challenges in payments to support functionality putting these services at grave risk of collapsing. Women-headed households are more likely to have inadequate housing, including on water and sanitation, which can increase health risks, especially in cases of overcrowding of shelters; (d) Gender-Based Violence (GBV): Quarantine and isolation policies, coupled with financial stress on families, individuals and communities, will exacerbate the conditions for women already vulnerable to domestic violence, estimated to be at least one third of all women. Care and support to GBV survivors may be disrupted when health service providers are overburdened; (e) Protection, mental health and psychosocial support: Fear, worry and acute stressors can lead to long-term consequences, coupled with diminished availability to services from social workers and case workers, leaving women and the most vulnerable exposed to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
3.PROTECT JOBS AND ECONOMIC RECOVERIES: COVID-19 has plunged the world economy into a recession with deep consequences and historical levels of unemployment and deprivation. It is estimated that we could lose 25 million jobs and see losses in labour income in the range of USD 860 billion to USD 3.4 trillion. Small and medium enterprises, the self-employed, daily wage earners and migrant workers are hit the hardest. Supporting income and employment for workers needs to be a core element of stimulus packages. Most vulnerable workers are in the informal economy, with no or limited access to social protection, nor do they have the economic security to take sick leave, get treated if required, or cope with lockdown. Women represent approximately 70 per cent of frontline workers dealing with the pandemic in the health and social sector, many of whom are migrant workers. Women are also overrepresented in some of the services sectors most impacted by the crisis, mostly lacking social protection, and will also bear a disproportionate burden in the care economy.
Economic recovery is about protecting critical productive assets, productive units and productive networks during the crisis. Ensuring the continued or improved functioning of SMEs across sectors, including food and other essential goods and services supply chains, is of particular urgency. First, policy actions across multiple sectors and mitigation of adverse policy effects on essential services are needed to avoid disruption and permanent job losses. Second, employment crises are the harbingers of political crises. Disruptions in massive employment sectors presents immediate existential threats to essential services that result in riots, violence and erosion of trust in institutions and governments. Third, a global economic recession will impact global population movements and hence affect countries with high levels of migration and large portions of remittances in their GDP. The return of migrants and the reduction of remittances will likely surpass the capacity of the formal and informal sectors in those countries to absorb large numbers of returnees or additional local job seekers in the local labour market.
4.THE MACROECONOMIC RESPONSE AND MULTILATERAL COORDINATION: A major global economic recession is underway, along with the possibility of a financial crisis, with major implications for vulnerable population groups and households. A large-scale fiscal and financial effort for counter-cyclical spending is urgently needed everywhere.
A three-step strategy is essential for the socio-economic response to the COVID-19 crisis. First, a rapid assessment of the potential impact of the crisis is needed in order to quantify the spending necessary to contain it. Second, an assessment of the fiscal space available to finance increased spending, as it will restrict the governments capacity for action. Third, an analysis of policy priorities and available policy measures considering both financing and implementation constraints faced by governments. The possible implications of the proposed policy measures will need to be accounted for as well.
As the UN Secretary-General has noted, a large scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response is needed now more than ever. COVID-19 is a global problem and confronting the effects of the pandemic will require global and coordinated efforts supported by regional initiatives and regional institutions. While the level and intensity of the impact of COVID-19 varies across the world, countries under sanctions may be particularly affected. Three areas of regional coordination are particularly relevant: trade policy, monetary coordination and enhanced connectivity.
5.SOCIAL COHESION AND COMMUNITY RESILENCE: The impact of COVID-19 on the life of rural and urban communities is set to be massive, particularly in poor and densely populated urban areas and slums. 1 billion people live in slums, where living conditions affect the health of the urban poor dramatically, where people are unable to self-isolate and where their livelihood depends on income from day to day work in the informal sector.
The scale of the socio-economic impact of COVID19 on the urban and rural poor will largely depend on tailored solutions for these communities. This will require a close interaction between national, subnational and local Governments and communities, based on a good understanding of the specific situations of communities through local assessments, strengthen community-led advocacy and service delivery. It will also require that communities are empowered to participate in local planning and in the oversight of services.
The COVID-19 crisis also threatens social cohesion as the crisis can erode trust within society and with respect to governments. Whole-of-society approaches are essential to confront the socio-economic impacts of the crisis. Social cohesion, embedded in actors, communities and institutions, holds the society together and is critical to the achievement of the SDGs, advancing the values, norms and fundamental human rights. Close attention should be paid to the impact of COVID-19 on fragile political transitions and in countries already facing a rapid deterioration of security conditions, on top of weak health systems and climate change.
III. A focus on debt
The size of fiscal and financial stimulus needed in each country - short run measures to address the pandemic, and fiscal policy to spur demand in the medium run - is in the order of several percentage points of GDP. Yet, many developing countries, including low- and middle-income countries, fragile/crisis context countries and Small Island Development States, will be unable to raise the resources needed.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, global debt had reached record highs. As the UN 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report points out, the long period of unusually low international interest rates and unprecedented levels of global liquidity associated with quantitative easing gave developing countries, including least developed countries, increased access to commercial financing. While providing much needed resources in the short term, this has also resulted in higher debt servicing costs, and heightened interest rate, exchange rate and rollover risks. Forty-four per cent of least developed countries and other low-income developing countries were already at high risk of external debt distress or already in debt distress prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.
A UN proposal: Debt relief should not be based on level of income but on vulnerability
The global COVID-19-induced contraction in economic activity is having dire consequences, including on debt sustainability. This is not limited to low-income countries. Middle-income countries, home to 75% of the worlds population and 62% of the worlds poor, are highly vulnerable to a debt crisis, lost market access and capital outflows. Small Island Developing States face structural constraints on growth, energy and food imports, and fiscal space that need to be addressed in comprehensive fashion.
Principles for Global Solidarity
To effectively halt a debt crisis, we need to move quickly. We propose a framework that aims to ensure debt relief, while accounting for heterogeneous debt situations across countries and the need for tailored policy responses.
This approach builds on principles for debt sustainability discussed and agreed at the United Nations and laid out most recently in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. They also reflect best practices underlying debt resolution at the IMF and the World Bank.
i) Debtors and creditors must share responsibility for preventing and resolving unsustainable debt situations
ii) Debt restructurings should be timely, orderly, effective, fair and negotiated in good faith
iii) Debt workouts should aim to restore public debt sustainability, while enhancing the ability of countries to achieve sustainable development, growth with greater equality and the sustainable development goals.
A Three Phase Approach
A comprehensive approach across three phases, involving all relevant creditors and all countries facing liquidity and solvency issues due to the crisis is required.
An across-the-board debt standstill for two years for all developing countries who cannot service their debt and request relief should be instituted. To start, official bilateral creditors should immediately institute an emergency debt payment moratorium on sovereign debt.
The standstill should also:
Include other creditors (private creditors as well as multilaterals). Coordination is of the essence.
Extend beyond IDA countries to include other low-income and those heavily indebted middle-income countries that request relief.
Include principal and interest payments, as well as associated fees and charges
Set a cut-off date, after which new financing is excluded from future debt restructurings, in order to facilitate access to financing after this date.
Allow for repayment schedules that ensure ability of countries to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
A second phase should consider a more comprehensive assessment and options towards debt sustainability. Debt swaps can release resources for the COVID-19 response in developing countries, although they may not adequately solve unsustainable debt situations.
A debt mechanism for the SDGs, with a focus on creating fiscal space for recovery in a resilient manner and SDG achievement could be considered.
Addressing long outstanding issues in the international debt architecture should be cast as a third phase given the urgency and immediacy of the need to act in the face of COVID.
This new international debt architecture should build upon the Principles established in the Financing for Sustainable Development Agenda of timely, orderly, effective, fair resolutions. It should aim at preventing defaults from turning into prolonged financial and economic crises, restoring public debt sustainability, and enhancing the ability of countries to achieve the sustainable development goals.
IV. Next Steps
The pandemic has reminded us, in the starkest way possible, of the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protections and public services. It has underscored and exacerbated inequalities, above all gender inequality, laying bare the way in which the formal economy has been sustained on the back of invisible and unpaid care labour. It has highlighted ongoing human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women.
Building a better, post-pandemic future will require social and economic interventions today that build greater resilience tomorrow. To be resilient, COVID-19 recovery efforts must be part of the solution to climate change the other global crisis facing this generation. They must accelerate rather than undermine decarbonization, the protection of natural capital, social equality and inclusion, the realization of human rights for everyone, and strong, capable governments and institutions all critical, systemic elements to avoiding such an outbreak again.
Rather than being put aside as aspirational in a time of crisis, the SDGs offer a framework for a fair and sustainable transition, as they recognize the interconnected nature of all life on this planet. Beyond the socio-economic frame of the current response, the role the environment and natural capital will play in the path to recovery is a policy choice that warrants further elaboration, as do good governance, gender equality and empowerment, and the protection and promotion of human rights for all.
As the UN Secretary-General report avers, we need to build back better. A large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response is needed now more than ever. The COVID-19 crisis is a global problem and confronting the effects of the pandemic will require global and coordinated efforts supported by regional and sub-regional collaboration.
The UN is fully mobilized. It will make full use of its programmatic assets, contribute through actions that enable and empower, and through words that connect and protect with the SDGs as compass. It is also establishing a new Multi-Partner Trust Fund for COVID19 Response and Recovery. The collective know-how of the UNs Country Teams is operational and mobilized to implement this strategy over the next 12 to 18 months, led by Resident Coordinators in 162 countries and territories, and supported by a global and regional network of expertise and experience.
There will be no return to the old normal. The massive fiscal and financial repurposing made by governments in these weeks and months, including the redirection of fossil fuel subsidies to aid the response, are a glimpse of the future. They suggest that the status quo and business-as-usual are policy choices, not inevitable constraints on sustainable development.
Recovering from this pandemic must not come at the expense of tackling others. We need to do everything possible to ensure that our efforts to support countries ravaged by Covid-19 do not divert resources from existing crises addressing the needs of refugees and other vulnerable groups; tackling the global climate emergency; ending violence against women and girls; and putting an end to discrimination in all its forms. How stimulus plans are implemented matters to what this recovery will look like. The global recovery needs to be fair; it needs to be green, and above all, it must be inclusive.
Posted: at 7:07 pm
As the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis grows more profound across the globe, claiming the lives of nearly 110,000 people and infecting over 1.78 million others by 12 April, the world is racing to develop a reliable vaccine to save humanity from the worst pandemic in over a century.
However, as the world is vehemently searching for a reliable vaccine or cure, the elephant in the room is the state of the world economy, which is growing worse by the day. As most of the worlds major cities have slowed to a snails pace during the crisis, its manufacturing plants, agriculture, stock markets and trading centres have also come to a virtual halt due to enforced curfews and lockdowns preventing most human gatherings.
These health and safety measures intended to save human lives have a steep economic cost, and the global economy was already on the edge of recession before the coronavirus crisis. Now many economists are predicting its near total collapse.
Many questions still surround how to tackle the worlds most challenging crisis since World War II and how normal life can be restored even if the virus itself is eventually contained. These questions are not easy to answer, but life will return to normal eventually and maybe even faster than many pundits and analysts think. One line of thought says that the Covid-19 crisis could give rise to a new world order and see the rise of China to inherit the throne left vacant by the United States.
However, neither of these things is certain. There is too little data available to forecast what will happen in the coming period or in the post-coronavirus era. There is also exaggeration or even wishful thinking in the ominous forecasts that say that the Western capitalist counties are doomed after they survive this crisis.
Such forecasts stem from the possible recession that the Western economies may suffer from as a result of the crisis, predicting their fall in favour of the rise of the Chinese. However, this analysis neglects the fact that the Chinese economys meteoric growth over the past three decades has been largely reliant on exporting goods to these Western countries and their thriving economies. As a result, China, as the worlds leading exporter, could take an even bigger hit than the Western economies should the latter falter and fall into recession.
Thousands of Chinese manufacturers would be out of business in record time, especially those that are reliant on exports to Western countries such the states of the European Union, the United States and Canada. The rising economies in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East will hardly fill the gap if the Europeans and North Americans are unable to import Chinese products.
The credit lines granted by the Chinese government to developing countries have helped Chinese exporters to grow exponentially by facilitating their entrance to markets that had previously relied on Western products. But these credit lines have a limit, and they cannot be provided indefinitely. In many cases, and even before the current economic crisis, some countries had defaulted on their debts to Chinese lenders, such as Kenyas inability to pay a two billion Euros loan to the Exim Bank of China taken out to build a new port in Mombasa.
The situation had exacerbated to the extent that China was threatening to take over the new port from Kenya. China remains Kenyas largest lender, and Chinese loans account for more than 72 per cent of Kenyan foreign debts, which are more than 42.8 billion Euros. This situation is an undesirable one for any developing country, and Kenya thus faces defaulting on Chinese debt and possibly leading to the seizure of one of its main assets.
Moreover, China is facing a backlash from the Western countries as well as from Asian economic and political rivals such as Japan. There is a growing trend for foreign investors in the Chinese economy seeking to relocate their investments to their home countries to make up for the economic stagnation and recession that has befallen them.
Japan has allocated $2.5 billion to Japanese companies seeking to relocate their investments out of China. Other calls, which have gone hand-in-hand with calls to boycott Chinese products, are being heard in the United States coming from various politicians. But economic boycotts against China will not lead to any tangible results in either the shorter or the longer term, as economic ties to China are too intertwined, and boycotting Chinese companies will lead to harming American and Western companies as well.
At the same time, while China is vying for the top spot as an economic superpower, it is very much aware that there is no point in manufacturing products that will have no markets if it loses its largest export markets in Europe and North America as a result of the recession that may befall these economies. In fact, the Chinese economy will be equally hit if the EU and US economies suffer in the coming period, which means that it is in the best interests of China for the global economy to remain in its current position, as there will be no real winners if the economic superpowers start to fall out with each other.
As a result, even during this dark period of economic uncertainty when there are shifting tides favouring one country against another, a general restructuring is unlikely to be straightforward due to the complex global economic structure. This is not to say that China may not eventually claim the top spot as the biggest economy in the world should the current state of near recession drag on after the coronavirus crisis is over. But no war like World War II has destroyed the economic or industrial might of the other existing main players.
Therefore, returning to normal rates of production after the crisis is over will be attainable provided that governments, central banks and commercial banks provide the necessary incentives to save ailing companies through loans and other programmes intended to facilitate the return of companies and industrial plants to full production. Losses will be incurred by the banks, and some companies may not be able to withstand the tide of events, but a total economic meltdown can be avoided with smart planning and execution.
Germany has already announced an economic-stimulus package of over one trillion Euros, and the US has allocated over $2 trillion to support the economy. Other countries are taking similar action to support their economies and allow them to survive the current crisis. These actions and others on the socio-economic level will ensure the survival of the global economy despite the speculation of many economists worldwide. They will also mean that such uncertainties will not change the global economic balance much in the coming period.
The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypts Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 April, 2020 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly
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The pandemic, profits and the capitalist justification of suffering and death – World Socialist Web Site
Posted: at 7:07 pm
18 April 2020
The Trump administrations cynical announcement of a set of fraudulent guidelines that will serve to legitimize a rapid reopening of businesses and a forced return to work, in unsafe conditions, brings to an end any public pretense of a systematic and coordinated effort within the United States to prioritize health and to protect human life in combatting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premature return to work that the Trump administration is orchestrating will lead to countless thousands of deaths, which could be prevented if a rigorous program of social distancing, supported by a massive program of testing and contact tracing, were implemented and sustained during the coming critical months.
There is absolutely no significant factual evidence, let alone scientific analysis, that can be cited to justify Trumps announcement. Leading epidemiologists have already publicly challenged the validity of the statistical model being used by the White House. Referring to projections by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, epidemiologist Ruth Etzioni of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center told the medical journal STAT: That the IHME model keeps changing is evidence of its lack of reliability as a predictive tool. That it is being used for policy decisions and its results interpreted wrongly is a travesty unfolding before our eyes.
The pandemic is exacting a horrifying toll in human life. During the 24 hours that preceded Trumps announcement, the COVID-19 coronavirus claimed 4,591 lives in the US. This number was more than a 75 percent increase over the 2,569 deaths during the previous 24-hour period. Over the past three days, the nationwide death toll has risen from 26,000 to over 36,000.
It is widely recognized that the official figure substantially undercounts the total number of deaths. The discoveries of bodies of elderly patients in two different nursing homes are only the most frightful examples of the gap between the official and real death toll. At this point, there is no reliable tally of people dying outside of hospitals, either of an undiagnosed COVID-19 infection or of causes related to the pandemic.
This is a global pandemic. There are, as of this writing, 2,216,000 cases and 151,000 deaths. These statistics are no more reliable than those provided for the United States. The previously reported figures are already being revised upward.
Trumps blatant ignorance and gangster-like persona imparted to the announcement of the guidelines the sociopathic and generally putrescent atmosphere that pervades all his public appearances. But his policies are not simply those of an individual. The criminal form in which the policies are presented is determined by the economic and social interests of the class Trump serves.
For the financial-corporate oligarchy, the pandemic has been viewed, above all else, as an economic crisis. Its principal concern, from the start, was not the potential loss of life but the destabilization of the financial markets, the disruption of the process of profit extraction, and, of course, a substantial decline in the personal wealth of the members of the oligarchy.
While in February and March, the Trump administration publicly downplayed the seriousness of the crisis, officials at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve worked in close consultation with the major banks to structure and implement a multi-trillion-dollar bailout that would dwarf that which followed the financial collapse of 2008.
During the first three weeks of March, the news was dominated by the mounting international and national impact of the pandemic on public health. Public attention was focused on the drama of the cruise ships, the deaths in Italy and the initial reports of infection in Washington state. The urgent need to implement quarantines and shut down non-essential businesses was, despite Trump, widely acknowledged.
On March 19, the CARES Act was introduced in the Senate. The rapid passage of the bailout of the entire financial industry was taken for granted. Indeed, corporate executives, kept well informed by their political servants in Congress, took advantage of the plunge on Wall Street to buy back billions in company shares in anticipation of the massive rally that would follow the final passage of the CARES Act.
As soon as the CARES Act was introduced, the focus of the media began to shift toward an aggressive campaign for a return to work. There could be no delay. The massive increase in fictitious capitalmore than $2 trillion in digitally created debtwas to be added to the Federal Reserves balance sheet within less than a month. Additional trillions of dollars of debt will be added in the coming months. This represents, in the final analysis, claims on real value that must be satisfied through the exploitation of the labor power of the working class. The greater the debt incurred by the state-sanctioned creation of fictitious capital, the more urgent the demand for a rapid end to restraints on the process of profit extraction.
Thus, on March 22, even as the CARES Act was making its way toward passage, Thomas Friedman, the leading columnist of the New York Times, initiated the campaign for a return to work: What the hell are we doing to ourselves? To our economy? To our next generation? he shouted. Is this cureeven for a short whileworse than the disease?
The latter sentence provided the slogan for a campaign that became increasingly insistent in the weeks that followed. Arguments against excessive concern for the protection of human life became more and more brazen. Evading an examination of the socio-economic interests that had prevented an effective response to the pandemic, the Times began extolling the benefits of human suffering. As much as we might wish, none of us can avoid suffering, opined columnist Emily Esfahani Smith on April 7. Thats why its important to learn to suffer as well.
On April 11, the Times dished up further musings on the benefits of suffering and death. Ross Douthat, in a column titled The Pandemic and the Will of God, invited readers to consider how suffering fits into a providential plan. Another essay, by Simon Critchley of the New School in New York City, proclaimed that To Philosophize Is to Learn How to Die. Pretentiously invoking the authority of Descartes, Boethius, More, Gramsci, Heidegger, Pascal, T.S. Eliot, Montaigne, Cicero, Dafoe, Camus, Kierkegaard and even Boccaccioall within the confines of one newspaper columnthis academic blowhard summed up the wisdom of the ages by advising his readers, Facing death can be a key to our liberation and survival.
The brutal practical agenda underlying these rather ethereal ruminations on suffering and death found blunt expression in the text of a round-table video conference organized by the Times. Participants included Zeke Emanuel, who is notorious for arguing that physicians should not seek to prolong life beyond the age of 75, and Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton, whose advocacy of euthanasia for debilitated infants led to protests upon his appointment to the university post 20 years ago. The Times is entirely familiar with Singers views, as it wrote extensively two decades ago on the controversy generated by his arrival at Princeton.
The text of the video conference discussion was posted in the on-line edition of the New York Times Magazine on April 10, under the title Restarting America Means People Will Die. So When Do We Do It? Five thinkers weigh moral choices in a crisis.
In its introduction to the text, the Times asserted that it will become necessary to accept that there is a trade-off between saving lives and saving the economy. While in the short term the two goals may be aligned, in the longer run, though, its important to acknowledge that a trade-off will emergeand become more urgent in the coming months, as the economy slides deeper into recession.
In its analysis of the trade off, the Times proceeds from the unquestioned premise that economic interests can only be those of the capitalist class. The profit system, private ownership of the productive forces and vast personal wealth are unalterable and eternal. Therefore, the trade off requires, inevitably, the sacrifice of human life, specifically, the lives of working people.
Singer declared that it is impossible to provide an assistance package for all those people for a year or 18 months. Thats where well get into saying, Yes, people will die if we open up, but the consequences of not opening up are so severe that maybe weve got to do it anyway.
It goes without saying that none of the Times panelists called attention to the fact that Congress had just injected several trillion dollars into the coffers of the banks and corporations to save executives and shareholders. Nor was it noted that there are approximately 250 billionaires in the United States, who have a collective net worth of close to $9 trillion dollars. If this wealth were expropriated and distributed evenly among the 100 million poorest households in the United States, it would provide each household with a monthly income of $5,000 for 18 months!
Of course, the expropriation of this gargantuan sum of privately held wealthwhich is entirely legitimate and necessary in the context of a massive social crisisis not an option which the Times and its panelists are even prepared to consider as a theoretical possibility. But they are willing to accept the deaths of countless thousands as a matter of practical, i.e., capitalist necessity.
The subordination of life to the profit system is not confined to the United States. It is being proclaimed as a universal principle by the ruling elites in Europe. The Neue Zurcher Zeitung, the main voice of the Swiss ruling class, posted an article yesterday, that asks:
Do you want to live forever? This was the question Frederick the Great asked his soldiers at the Battle of Kolin in 1757, when they gave way to the enemy. One is inclined to ask the same question again in view of the disputable relationship between the corona sick and deceased on the one hand and the population as a whole and those suffering from common diseases on the other.
Some things here seem to beliterallycrazy. But also the collateral damage of disease with its wanton acceptance of the destruction of the economy provokes the whole question. Anyone who wants to put it drastically could say: We choose economic suicide to prevent individual elderly people from passing away a few years earlier than would be expected under normal circumstances.
The advocacy of a policy that accepts, and even advocates the culling of the aged and weak finds its most explicitly fascistic expression in a lengthy essay published on April 13 in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Titled We need to talk about dying, it is written by Bernard Gill, a sociologist who has been associated with the Green Party.
In a sweeping assault on the development of science, Gill denounces the heroic narrative that celebrated the great nineteenth century scientists Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch as heroes who made microbes visible, manageable and therefore controllable. Gill protests:
In this story of creation, the microbes are aliens, which threaten us and therefore hold us down with power are best exterminated. Our lives against their livesscientific knowledge and well-organized defensive struggle until the final victory of hygiene, which promises eternal life in a germ-free environment.
But this is a violation of nature. Our life, Gill declares, is not conceivable without death. But those who seek to contain the infection with all means, also fights dying with all means.
Gill advocates an acceptance of the natural spread of the pandemicbased on the program of herd immunitywhich views dying as a natural process that is individually painful for those involved, but from a distance makes room for new life. With this approach, Gill argues, we come to terms with the microbes in the knowledge that our life without death is unthinkable. We console ourselves with the prospect of new life.
These are arguments with which Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who committed suicide 75 years ago this month in his Berlin bunker, would have readily agreed.
Deeply reactionary and inhuman ideas are wafting about Germany. But there, no less than in the United States, they arise not from the sick psychology of individuals, but from the needs of the capitalist system.
The same publication, Der Spiegel, that provides a forum for Gill, warns that the German auto industry cannot endure a prolonged shutdown.
The longer the corona crisis lasts, the louder industry calls will grow for politicians to finally name a date for the easing of the shutdowns in order to provide companies with some planning security
The automotive industry in particular is facing a trial of strength for which there is no historical precedent. In order to prevent a collapse, companies need to get their shuttered factories opened again this spring.
Involved as well are critical issues of global competitiveness. Der Spiegel continues:
There are also geostrategic interests. Executives at companies in Europe want to strengthen the European market in order to establish it as a counterweight to the United States and China as economic powers...
This is all the more true given that China, where the coronavirus originated, appears to be emerging from the crisis faster than the rest of the world.
The COVID-19 coronavirus confronts mankind with not only a scientific-medical problem, but also a political and social challenge. The response of the ruling classes to the coronavirus pandemic reveals that its interests are incompatible with human progress and the very survival of mankind.
In its failure to prepare for the pandemic, its chaotic and disorganized response to the coronavirus once the outbreak began, its subordination of every social need to its own economic interests, its nationally-grounded sabotage of all possibility of a unified global response to the disease, and its open justification of the reactionary and neo-fascistic program of social euthanasia, the ruling class is demonstrating the necessity of socialism.
For humanity to survive, the subordination of society to the money mad capitalist elites must be ended.
Featured statements on the coronavirus pandemic
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Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:32 am
Its beginning to dawn on the national security establishment and ordinary citizens alike that theres no going back.
The coronavirus, the current biggest threat to global security, has already destroyed life as we know it. Even if previous pre-pandemic certainties about socio-economic and political realities can be quickly reestablished in the recovery period (though unlikely), the unsettling consequences of the virus will last a lifetime.
Despite the pandemics current duration, seismic long-term changes are already palpable. Fear has made personal and familial safety paramount. This new primacy of safety demands obedience, both to state authority and to scientific expertise, carrying the consequence of recidivism to a more Hobbesian world where state power reigns supreme.
The pandemic has ushered in the retreat of globalization and many of its idealistic tropes, such as sanctuary cities and free movement zones. Tight, severe border management has already arrived, for what sane person will advocate admitting infected people? Epidemiological procedures have no patience with civil liberties, and as state power becomes more manifest, individualism will be pushed aside for national preservation.
The national security establishments in Europe and the United States are taking a fatalistic view, weighing the cost in lives against an outright economic collapse. The calculation is a hard choice between easing restrictions on internal movement, thereby enabling businesses to reboot, or continuing a lockdown at the price of economic security.
That type of turnaround raises the prospect that many will die. In Germany, one million people could perish over time if the government removes its shelter-in-place diktat. Yet, continuing the lockdown risks destroying the German economy and, with it, a pan-European recovery.
The coronavirus has sent rippling shock waves through the global economy, with countries taking severe measures to adjust.
The EU, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and the U.S. are all printing money. With output and production indices falling, all this new money may prompt another epidemic inflation. If the massive cash infusions announced this past week are primarily being used to buttress corporate balance books, even basic systemic liquidity could be in doubt. But this may provide an opportunity for global private capital, or various sovereign funds, to finance new sovereign indebtedness, incurred via new spending and an explosion in contingent liabilities.
The contraction of globalization as a consequence of the pandemic will have other long-lasting effects on the economy, including the return of EU and U.S. firms to their domiciled countries of origin and the decline of face-to-face business, which is being replaced by teleworking and long-distance electronic monitoring and surveillance. With drastically declining business travel, virtual interaction with customers and e-commerce will grow exponentially.
Industries will move towards vertical integration, with far less reliance on foreign-sourced materials, especially in critical sectors of national security (rare earth minerals) or basic supplies (pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies like cotton swabs or syringes). As a national security objective, mature Western economies will reduce dependence on supplies from Asia.
The largest economic, political, and social risk lies in the vulnerability of the payments system. Despite the stress tests on the banks since the 2008 crisis, the retail banking sector never anticipated anything like the coronavirus their inability to adapt to post-pandemic circumstances will cause them to be one of the biggest fatalities of the virus, with financial technology, or fintech, rising to fill this gap.
As the American economy struggles to stay afloat in the face of market uncertainties caused by the coronavirus, it also faces the growing pressure from foreign powers waging war on domestic oil, a vital national security interest.
In light of these threats, the administrations stimulus package is the best choice for stabilizing our economy, keeping unemployment down, restoring confidence in consumer spending, and protecting the market from an orchestrated attack by foreign rivals. For example, the current Saudi-Russian oil price war has reinforced the need for the U.S. to strengthen its domestic oil production. Although the Trump administration cannot indulge every panicked call for subsidy or special treatment, a rescue package for the shale oil industry is necessary to support one of the nation's major critical industries and make ourselves self-reliant by maintaining our supplies and preserving our industries.
What this pandemic has taught us is that we can only rely on ourselves for the future and theres no going back.
Ron Wahid is chairman and CEO of Arcanum Global, a strategic intelligence company.
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Posted: at 6:32 am
The emergence of COVID-19 as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization has led to a number of precautionary measures such as quarantines, social distancing or in some cases total lockdown in region or countries around the world.
For the first time since WWII, Europeans have been confronted with such restrictions and have to adjust to new realities where the future is unpredictable. Keeping a job and earning a living have become uncertain, especially for those who are already in a precarious situation, leading to greater levels of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, limiting access to normal daily activities, not just going to work, but normal social interactions with others provokes mental health issues, and weakens physical health for those who already struggle to maintain good health and wellbeing.
This situation is particularly worrying for prisoners, who may experience greater mental health effects as they are deprived of external social contacts for a longer period. Children are also affected by social isolation and the mental health issues this provokes. For those who already experiencing loneliness, the social distancing required to stop the pandemic only further raises their feelings of social isolation.
Feelings of loneliness and social isolation, heightened by the current public health crisis, can have severe health consequences for a number of socio-economic groups. Anxiety and apathy, as well as loneliness, are some of the mental health consequences that will persist long after the pandemic ends, while the increased feelings of depression and stress, especially during a time of uncertainty, may have serious impacts on public health, increasing peoples vulnerability to poor health, and weakening society as a whole. Social isolation should not become a norm, even if some specific circumstances require social distancing. These two terms are often used interchangeably but their meanings should be clearly distinguished and used in an appropriate manner. Indeed, it may be more appropriate to talk about physical distancing instead.
Tackling the pandemic and preventing its further spread is vital for society, but such measures do not mean there should be a collapse in social contact. The impact of isolation and loneliness should not be under-estimated or fall to the bottom of politicians lists of priorities as inaction now will lead to high human and financial costs later on. The strong social and economic arguments should be enough to convince decision makers that they also need to take urgent action to tackle peoples social isolation especially those in a vulnerable situation. Developing effective interventions, including prevention measures is not an easy task during a public health emergency when priorities have to be redefined and public spending has to be urgently reallocated; but consideration of these issues now can widely contribute to limiting the long-term effects of the current crisis.
In an era when digital technology is an integral part of peoples lives, public authorities must deploy their capacity to meet peoples needs and address both the physical and mental health impacts of social isolation. Online medical consultations can support doctors and patients to ensure proper medical follow-up, which is widely affected by confinement. Such a measure will demonstrate the role of digital technologies in the health sector and provide an effective response to patients needs allowing patients to be properly diagnosed and avoid self-medication that can additionally worsen peoples health during a health emergency.
The possibility for online discussion with a health professional or a psychologist is another concrete action that can help reduce anxiety and panic and overcome feelings of being alone or powerlessness. Virtual thematic discussions and group activities offered by social workers can also help combat social isolation people can be part of a collective where they can meet and discuss with others, their common values and interests. Teachers play an important role for childs socialization, through online classes, as well as extra-school activities that can meet childrens specific social needs.
These are just a few examples of activities that can be adapted to local contexts to reduce the mental health effects of the pandemic. Measures to combat peoples isolation, loneliness, anxiety and panic; and improve peoples well-being, can contribute to the successful reconstruction of our society, when some normality returns, and people can return to their daily lives.
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