How to deal with pandemics of global repercussions in future?

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When you think of China which idea fascinates you?

When you think of India which monument flashes in your dreamy layers of mind?

No doubt that people of all age groups and both genders answer emphatically “The Great wall of China” and “The Taj Mahal” respectively. They are not only wonders of the world but have special glue that sticks them permanently with our hearts.

But not today.

Today is special to mankind because peoples of the world are scared to the peak due to the onslaught of the pandemic Corona.

Let us shun the conspiracy theories for the sake of humanity and peep into the future of the children of Mother Earth.

In the past two centuries the world has endured many endemics and pandemics. Let us recollect some of them which caused major threats to human existence.

Cholera, Influenza, Small pox,Bubonic Plague, Aids etc are some examples of pandemics that rattled people all over the world resulting in mass and sudden deaths of people in bulk quantum and spread with unprecedented speeds.

Similarly epidemics which are area or region specific such as fungus yellow fever and Dengue etc claimed their share of human mortality at different times at different countries in the last two centuries.

So far scientists globally challenged and eradicated most of the pandemics with the excellent support, target plans, field level implementations and enormous funding by United Nations Organization, WHO and member countries.

Corona is a new challengewith the following special features:

  1. The speed of its spread is alarming.
  2. A hand shake or a hug is enough to infect.
  3. No authenticated medicine is available for cure.
  4. No vaccine is available as on date (i.e.)11th day of April 2020.

All countries of all continents got affected.

India is an early bird that sang the song of precaution and prevention thus retaining the number of affected people below 10K and number of deaths within a few hundreds.

The lock outs, social distancing, travel banishments, provision of 24 hour treatment and quarantine facilities all ensured the safe survival of 94.5% of the 130 crore Indian population.

However the challenge still remains unaddressed in the following areas:

  1. The spread of virus not controlled.
  2. Economic activities yet to take off.
  3. Manufacturing, trade, services, agriculture etc. are yet to start their operations.
  4. Demand and supply of all commodities and services to be stream lined.
  5. A new economic package in the lines of NEW DEAL of Franklin D. Roosevelt needs to be announced by Central government.
  6. Engagement of volunteers of NGOs and service organizations to assist the medical fraternity and the police force needs moreAttention and appropriate action by state governments and local bodies.

With a positive assumption that all the countries including India succeed in eradicating the pandemic within next few weeks as the world has done in the past two centuries in case of other pandemics

Let us deal with the measures to be adopted globally to prevent recurrence of spread of such pandemics in future.

From the health and medical treatment angle the following measures may be considered globally to ensure non-recurrence of spread of Corona Pandemic:

  1. Establishment of a single research body uniting all researchers of all countries to ensure a co-ordinate and consolidated research for invention of vaccine. Global monitoring and global funding will result in achieving quick results and minimizing costs.
  2. UNO, WHO should fix targets for all member nations for time-bound eradication of the disease by  implementing rapid vaccination programmes in all countries  as it has done in case of earlier pandemics such as Malaria.
  3. UNO, G7 countries, SAARC etc., should endeavor to close researchlaboratories of virology in all countries that create and develop dangerous virus like corona with intentional or unintentional motives of biological warfare. This move should be akin and similar to prevention of nuclear proliferation. International sanctions as single measure by all member countries should be introduced against violating countries.The most alarming feature of a pandemic is the economic recession or long lasting slowdown. In the long future this will result in the fall and rise ofEconomic super powers and economic paupers.

To balance the inequalities of growth and fall, the followingmeasures are suggested:

  1. As predicted by IMF and other global rating agenciesIndia and China are going to survive the economic recession and hence ensure that they contribute to the development of the economically weakened countries, to overcome their economic obstacles.
  2. Obstructive and impractical parameterssuch as NPA concept should be re-scrutinized.NPA norms to be debunked till recovery of economies or deferred to an optimum period of 5 budgeting years.
  3. Buying and selling of currencies in market other than forbalance of trade and debt payments should be stopped altogether.
  4. All developing and underdeveloped countries should shift from dependence on Petroleum products for transport and manufacture transport vehicles driven by electric, bio-gas or solar energy.
  5. IMF and other agencies for financing governments should introduce long term interest free loans for growth orientedschemes and projects. The accrued Interest may be recoveredafter revival of economy.However these measuresrequire a lot of funding for the lending agencies.While most of the countriesare under the shadow of recession the generation of funds for international lending is a very tough exercise the ways and means for which are explained herebelow:
  6. Increased contribution of funds from member countries.
  7. Acceptance of funds from big corporate houses as long term low interest deposits for further lending to governments.

To overcome the economic crisis and to increase the demand for commodities the following measures may be adopted by all countries globally:

  1. A moratorium for tariffs and duties for all exports and importson all products of FMCG and electronic goods to be implemented by all countries in the world for a period ofOne year which results in reduced costs andincreased demand.
  2. 30% deduction in GST on all commodities.
  3. All the countries should revisit their bilateral and multilateral trade agreements and announce a moratorium for a period of one year on all tariffs on exports and imports of FMCG and capital goods.
  4. Deferment of high value projects such as OROB, CPEC etc. and banks to defer funding to these projects. Diversion of the allocated funds to nations facing economic downfall for productive activities will help such countries to breathe the air of economic growth.
  5. All central banks should announce a temporary restriction for one year on sale and purchase of all currencies for purposes other than trade receipts and payments.

In a nutshell this is the time for all countries to come close and to work in tandem for uplifting the economies with a sincere and wholehearted endeavor. Competitions and challenges should be postponed for at least two years and revenues of governments should be minimized to maximize the money in the hands of consumers thus leading to increased demand which leads to proliferation of all economic activities.

Written By: N. Gurumoorthy, Retired executive of Indian Overseas Bank, Bangalore

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