Economic revival vs global pandemic - GulfToday

Economic revival vs global pandemic


Photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

The 20 rich countries, whose heads of state and government are meeting Rome this weekend, face a cruel dilemma. They face the challenge of reviving global economic growth after drastic disruption caused by two years of COVID-19 pandemic through 2020-2021, and which also caused 51,506, 089 infections and 8,62,952 deaths, according to Gavi Vaccine Alliance.

One of the immediate concerns of the G-20 leaders is that of fuel supplies and rising fuel prices. United States President Joe Biden wants to press the fact that the oil producing countries should step up supplies to keep the prices even, and also help accelerate economic activity, especially in the Western industrial countries. French President Emmanuel Macron talked of price stability. Americans have singled out Russia for manipulating gas supplies as a lever of political bargaining. European Union depends on Russia for its gas supplies. A Biden administration official emphasised that it is “a delicate time in the global economy, and what’s important is that global energy supplies keep up with global energy demand.” Saudi Arabian King Salman Bin Abdulaziz has promised stability and balance of oil markets.

The groups’ leaders also want to taper measures to support COVID-19 care on the assumption that the pandemic is fading away at the very time when the COVID-19 infections are again on the rise in China, Russia and European Union countries and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the pandemic is not yet over. On the other hand, the finance and health ministers of G-20 who met at Rome on Friday a day before the G-20 summit have resolved the need to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world population by the end 2022 and 40 per cent by the end of 2021. It looks a tall order because most of the vaccine production which is based in a few rich countries like the United States, China, India and Britain has failed to mark supplies for the poor and vulnerable countries. And the vaccination cycle is not yet complete in the rich countries. Apart from China and India, in most European countries and in the United States, it is the reluctance of the people to be vaccinated that is the major hurdle.

Even as global economic momentum is yet to pick up, the governments of G-20 have decided to impose the 15 per cent minimum corporate tax, a deal agreed to by 130 countries. This is expected to yield large amounts of revenue, US$60 billion a year in the United States alone. It is to be expected that the governments in the developed countries want to use the additional tax revenue to help people in their own countries as well the poor in the rest of the world. It is not of much use if government coffers are filled, and no money is spent on people at the time of health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has become evident during the pandemic that the coronavirus does not discriminate between rich and poor countries, and no country can lock itself up and feel safe. For once, the virus is a global event even as climate change is. It would be too hasty to connect the pandemic and climate change though it should surprise no one if there is a link between the two. It is possible that climate change could unleash pandemics like COVID-19. But what is certain is that even as we speak of global economy, global terrorism, global health too belongs to the same category. No one is healthy unless everyone is healthy. This is not a rhetorical assertion. It has become an inconvenient fact of our lives, wherever we live.

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