The world after Covid? (Almost) the same


Once the health crisis is over, we will resume our former life. With a few changes. Introduction to the latest issue of Eastwest, in newsstands today

Monica Samudio, 46, whose husband Jorge Garcia, 51, died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is reflected in the window as she looks out of her new apartment, in Mexico City, Mexico April 29, 2020. Samudio said she moved from her previous home after feeling discriminated against when she and her husband contracted the disease. Picture taken April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Sociologists, economists and futurologists are taking turns imagining what world we will live in when the pandemic will be behind us. Expressions such as deglobalization or slowbalization have long since revived, in the reflections of the Indian writer Adjiedj Bankas or in the economic forecasts of Thomas Piketti, the Keynes of our century.

We at eastwest do not believe in a return to the Middle Ages nor to the 50s of the last century, when there were only 50 million international tourists, against the billion of 2019.

In an exclusive interview with the European Council, our historical partner, the European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell argued that there will be no end to globalization, because of the economic processes that have brought about 300 of the 500 largest enterprises in the world to hold a presence in Wuhan. But some rethinking of the production chains may concern the strategic sectors, to which the health sector must certainly be included. Today, we Europeans have discovered to import from China 50% of our needs for protective masks, 40% of antibiotics, 90% of penicillin. Not even a gram of paracetamol is produced in Europe! A pandemic crisis like the one we are experiencing has exposed the difficulty of obtaining quickly what we needed to face the Coronavirus in a timely manner. The European Commission is launching a “European RescEU” plan, to be able to create processing and storage sites in Europe for those health products considered strategic, so as to mitigate our dependence on a single country.

But we wouldn’t go any further.

We are in fact convinced that only thanks to the interconnection between world research centers and the impressive capacity for progress provided by new technologies, will it be possible to allow us to fight this and future viruses. We must therefore worry that, for the first time in history, the United Nations Security Council has failed to pass a health resolution because of the US-China conflict. It had not happened for Ebola in 2014 nor for AIDS in 2000, not even for the pneumonia vaccine in the middle of the US-USSR cold war. It was the Secretary General himself who called into question the European Union, as a mediating force between the two litigants, in order to draw out an agreement to overcome the crisis. And it is this asymmetrical equidistance (unbalanced in favor of the historic Atlantic link) that will have to characterize the European Union’s foreign policy which will emerge strengthened from the crisis, if it will seize the opportunity for a solidarity rebalancing of its citizens, approaching the conditions of those of the south to the northern communities.

It will not make any sense to return to the government of the nation states, despite the enormous injection of liquidity which they are making themselves protagonists of, raising an already very high average debt / GDP ratio in the advanced countries (105%) by a further 17%, with peaks of 20% in the USA and 22% in Italy.

We are probably moving from a historical phase of globalization, characterized by the dominance of the market, to a new model, aimed at promoting a synthesis that achieves the convergence between private and public interests (better than has been done so far); between individuals, social groups, networks, machines and businesses; between the market and the state, which must not reinvent itself as an entrepreneur (too many damages done in the past) but yes, an effective regulator of anti-cyclical rules and a wise shock absorber. With social and environmental sustainability at the center, since it has become clear that the periodic transmission (Sars, Mers, Covid-19 …) of the so-called zoonotic viruses is due to a no longer tolerable alteration of ecosystems caused by humans.

This article is also published in the June/July issue of eastwest.

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