Day 14: Adjusted

07/04/2020

Day 14: Adjusted

The number of deaths continues to rise. These days I listen to the FT news briefing podcast every morning. We are flooded with news on how the rich part of the world is responding to the effects of the pandemic – payments to the unemployed, to businesses, setting up new hospitals etc. They are playing a multiplayer snatch game with supplier countries for essential medical supplies and medicines. Then there is the question of how long to lockdown countries. India is now considering a staggered exit from the lockdown. There’s not enough news coverage seen from African region or the Latin American. For Asia, the South Eastern economies are important enough to not be overlooked. After all, China is the mask-maker for the world right now, and India is a major producer of chloroquine that has undergone a strange run of popularity as a cure for Covid-19 affected people. As expected, there is a scramble to secure supplies of it, especially by the US. ‘This is not the time to make money’, says Pankaj Patel, Chairman of Zydus Cadilla, a pharma major from Ahmedabad which is a leading producer of the drug. Setting examples of leadership in these times is important. I continue to believe that Indian companies rise up to that role and foreground human values when needed. 

Life has adjusted itself around the lockdown frame. A ‘new normal’ as they say has kicked in. It doesn’t need a conscious thought to only consume what is necessary and do only what needs to be done. The slowness can also be regulated now. There are webinars and online conferences happening that can be signed up for and immediately the day can feel packed with conversations. I have begun to ration pandemic news. Overdosing on it is not productive. 

Two webinars – one from ILO and another from World Bank on macroeconomics in Covid times filled up the evening. ILO’s webinar on ‘COVID-19 and Supporting the World of Work’ had  ILO’s head Guy Ryder speak on the impact of lockdown on jobs worldwide. ILO estimates that we are looking at a destruction of 195 million jobs worldwide. It could be more, the data is poor. The need to integrate economic and social dimension into the priority of saving people’s lives should be necessary now.  Ryder says, the pandemic ‘shows just how fragile the world of work in normal times is’. This is true for a certain class of workers. Corporate India is sitting in, well stocked and well invested. The slowdown will dent the ship. For other groups of workers with contract jobs and low wages, this will sink their boats. I agree with the ILO when they call for a ‘truly global response’ to this crisis. But we also know how utopian that is. As we speak, IMF is mildly gloating about how many countries (90!) have reached out to the Fund for assistance. We know how it unfolds when the IMF helps a country out. 

In a limited sense I agree with the cynics who argue that the world would go back to its old ways as soon as the pandemic is over. They find the change hopefuls to be naive. However, I am sure that there are individuals on whom this time is unfolding in impactful ways. The integral of these personal impacts will change things. Corporations and governments are made up of individuals after all. Therein lies the hope. And, hope for some is a predisposition.

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