Democracy and security in an age of quantum transparency
- By Chris Kremidas-Courtney
Better late than never. After weeks of neglect, the global spotlight is finally on Covid-19’s devastating social and economic impact on the world’s most vulnerable. Statements of support, promises of help, and plans for quick aid and debt relief, albeit piecemeal, are welcome.
But yesterday’s policies won’t solve tomorrow’s problems.
The current focus on the immediate emergency is correct. But it must go hand in hand with preparations for even tougher days ahead.
In some developing countries, Covid-19 risks wiping out years of hard work and an impressive steady rise in incomes. With the disruption in global supply chains, trade is slowing. Remittances are declining. Tourism is a memory. A post-crisis recovery will take time, money and effort.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Abiy Ahmed wants an emergency package worth $150 bn for Africa
In the short-term, almost everywhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America, creaking health systems need to be shored up and urgently needed testing kits, ventilators and protective clothing for health workers, provided. As more and more developing countries go into lockdown, factories screech to a standstill and jobs disappear, cash transfers must be made quickly to the poorest to prevent famine and hunger.
Many governments are already increasing domestic spending to help the poor, requiring that the liquidity of financial systems is maintained to keep money flowing to households and small businesses.
There are demands – and promises – of debt relief. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Abiy Ahmed wants an emergency package worth $150 bn for Africa to boost health spending, shore up foreign reserves and patch up social safety nets. If the virus is not defeated in Africa “it will only bounce back to the rest of the world”, he warns.
The IMF-World Bank meeting on 17 April will seek a coordinated international response to these and other demands. The European Commission is readying its own initiative for African countries.
Old-fashioned aid and trade policies will need a radical rethink
This is welcome. But with the economic fall-out from Covid-19 expected to cause the loss of up to 25 million jobs – many in the developing world –by the end of 2020, it’s equally urgent to put in place policies to tackle an even grimmer future.
Rebooting the economies of most developing nations – even those described as middle-income – won’t be easy. Old-fashioned aid and trade policies will need a radical rethink. Tired conversations and out-dated, often transactional, interactions between rich and poor nations will have to be refreshed.
The European Union, with its expanding network of partners in developing countries can spearhead the transformation. But to do so, European institutions, national governments and policymakers will have to look beyond today’s challenges, short-term victories, petty rivalries and self-absorbed reflexes. Here are some compelling realities which must stay centre stage in upcoming EU reflections:
EU ‘Health partnerships’ must ensure assistance to bring an end to governments’ chronic underfunding of health systems
They will need financial help but also special ‘corona trade preferences’
The agenda is ambitious. In a world dominated by “my nation first” policies, there will certainly be resistance by many. But a pandemic that knows no borders requires global solutions, international cooperation and help-thy-neighbour policies.
It’s a simple matter of self-interest. Building a strong post-Covid-19 world requires changing yesterday’s policies to tackle tomorrow’s tough problems.
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