SYDNEY, December 24th (IPS) – What a challenging 2020 was! A year of dangerous life – “Tahun vivere pericoloso” – perhaps these words of the late Indonesian President Soekarno are the best description.
Fortunately, I managed to stay healthy and read and write comments (mostly about the pandemic here, here).
Anis ChowdhuryI started 2020 with an interview with New Age (Dhaka, February 12th) under the heading “We Must Democratize Politics”, where I highlighted the dangers of growing inequality and how it could pose a greater threat than the developing pandemic is humanity interacting with the climate crisis and making advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence. The pandemic appears to have speeded up the process.
The economist described the year of the “Great Lockdown” in which the whole world was closed as “the year in which everything changed” – the main title of The New York Times Columnist, Gail Collins’ book When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to Today (2009).
As the face mask became not only the landmark of the year but also a frightening new age, many pointed to fatal flaws in the neoliberal paradigm that had dominated the postwar social contract since the early 1980s with the Thatcher-Reagan attack on the post-war social contract that governed the Respecting workers’ rights and promising full employment and universal supplies of essential public goods and the release of greed (remember the 1987 film “Wall Street” in which Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko captured the essence of neoliberalism “greed” for want of a better word is good ”).
It was refreshing to hear corporate capitalism torchbearer Klaus Schwab tell TIMES, “The neoliberalist approach focuses on the notion that the market knows best that the ‘business of business is business’ and that the government knows it Refrain from laying down clear rules for the functioning of markets. These dogmatic beliefs have been proven wrong. ”
Schwab therefore argued: “We have to deviate from neoliberalism in the post-COVID era” and admitted: “The fundamentalism of the free market has undermined workers’ rights and economic security, triggered a deregulatory race to the bottom and a ruinous tax competition, and makes that possible Massive new global monopolies emerge. Trade, tax and competition rules that reflect decades of neoliberal influence now need to be revised. ”
Agreed with Francis Fukuyama, who celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of socialist experiments with his end of history and the last man. “A number of ideas about the benefits of unregulated markets … have had disastrous results … they have resulted in the weakening of unions, the bargaining power of ordinary workers, the rise of an oligarchic class … which … wields inadequate political power. ” So he thought, “Socialism should return,” which means “redistribution programs” that seek to remove this great imbalance between income and wealth. He went on to say, “If we have learned anything from the financial crisis, you have to regulate the sector like hell because everyone else has to pay for it.”
So it was encouraging to see the proponents of neoliberalism such as The Financial Times Write an editorial that reminds readers of the essence of the social contract after World War II: “To make collective sacrifices, you must offer a social contract that benefits everyone.”
It was also gratifying that IMF executive director Kristalina Georgieva took swift steps to arrange debt relief for low-income countries in an innovative way that is superior to the average G20 offer of full debt repayment with accumulated interest obligations (no surprise not many buyers). It was music to hear debt hawks like Carmen Reinhart, the chief economist of the World Bank, guessing: “First you worry about the war, then you find out how to pay for it.” The bank “paused” hers too controversial Doing Business Report, which led to a “beauty contest” for deregulation in the “Race to the Bottom” after it was no longer able to defend its data manipulation in favor of right-wing extremist regimes.
So as everything changed, there was great hope for a change in the way we organize economies and societies and respond to common threats to humanity. that poorly paid workers would be recognized for their essential services; that rent-seeking activities of the reindeer class would be restricted; that growing disparities in income, wealth and opportunity would be reversed; that there would be an integrative multilateralism that recognizes differentiated responsibilities in the collective global response; that no one or land would be left behind; and the list grows.
Not everyone was that confident, however. Simon Mair from the University of Surry, for example, pondered four possible post-COVID worlds: a descent into barbarism, robust state capitalism, radical state socialism, and a transformation into a large society built on mutual aid. He believed “Versions of all of these futures are entirely possible, if not equally desirable”. It all depends on the choices we make and the choices our political leaders make.
Amartya Sen believes “a better society can emerge from lockdowns” as it did after World War II; He is concerned, however, that “in politics against the current pandemic, justice was not a particularly conspicuous priority … Instead, the focus was on drastic controls and sudden lockdowns … with little attention paid to workers losing their jobs or the large number of migrant workers , the poorest of the poor who are hundreds of miles from their homes. ”
Meanwhile, Luke Cooper and Guy Aitchison of the LSE list four dangers: “Deglobalization” is taking a nationalist form; less democratic participation, more centralization; Surveillance state and erosion of human rights; Inequality remains unchallenged.
I’m not a fan of Tony Blair; But I tend to share his creepy feeling when he says, “This is the first time I’m worried about the future.” He fears: “COVID-19 will usher in a world in which uncertainty and unpredictability are the new normal. Everything that was relevant and present before COVID will be there afterwards, except intensified and accelerated … to create a lot of trouble, with the burden often falling on the most vulnerable. ”
I have reasons to be scary. I am listing some:
Vaccine nationalism rules forgetting that we have conquered smallpox, a major cause of death and blindness for centuries in less than a decade, through unprecedented global collaboration at the height of the Cold War.
Governments continue to have an obligation to Big Pharmas to oppose the waiver of patent rights, falsely argue that patent rights are necessary for innovation, and ignore the fact that we won against polio with an unpatented vaccine.
Business leaders shamelessly paid fat bonuses and used taxpayers’ pandemic bailouts to pay dividends and buy back shares while millions lost jobs and livelihoods.
However, governments are offering more corporate tax cuts and further undermining job and wage protection rather than going against corporate interests. In doing so, they ignore the fact that it is precisely these measures that have contributed to widening disparities, slowing growth, stagnating productivity and causing chronic financial crises.
Billionaires have now become richer and millions are pushed back into poverty and precarious lives.
Governments missed the opportunity to restart and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The pandemic has shown that we can live on less and that cities don’t have to be overcrowded.
But governments have failed to make it easier for the millions of people who have moved to villages and rural cities to reside there by accepting jobs and services and devising adaptation measures. Governments did not seize the opportunity to remove urban prejudice and initiate regenerative economies.
Governments and policymakers refuse to acknowledge that both existential threats – the climate crisis and the pandemic – while appearing as “environmental” or “natural” problems, are socially motivated.
The climate crisis is caused by society’s choice to consume too much and to produce too much, the very factors that destroy the natural habitats of wildlife and put humans in close contact with virus-transmitting animals.
Tackling the pandemic and climate crisis would be much easier if we cut or stopped our hedonistic lifestyle and non-essential economic activities
Meanwhile, Nobel laureate economist Michael Spence is pleading for the return of structural adjustment conditionalities for countries seeking help from the Bank and Fund, ignoring the results of the Bank’s Growth Commission. He directed these fair, “well-intentioned” conditionalities produced “lost decades” of development.
Another Nobel Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz, is advocating buybacks of Brady-style bonds using the IMF and donor money, while those funds are badly needed to fight the pandemic that has benefited creditors from the past.
Unfortunately, they do not offer a roadmap for a new, more successful, more inclusive and more sustainable future.
In my adopted country, Australia, the government is pulling back and refusing to achieve bold and ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets despite the worst bushfires and extreme weather events in history. Nothing was done to protect the gig workers, despite the fact that four uber-eat delivery drivers were killed in road accidents and brought people to people who were in jail. She is considering reforms to industrial relations laws that will make the lives of key workers such as firefighters, nurses, cleaners and those who deliver food more precarious.
My dream country, Bangladesh, is now listed as a new “autocracy” where the government has become intolerant and arrests and harassed journalists and anyone who exposes their wrongdoing and corruption, even if it involves fake COVID tests and aid money and goods . Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have become instruments of control as all state institutions, including the judiciary, police and bureaucracy, are politicized.
Still, there are some glimmers of hope as we welcome the spontaneous mass mobilization in Thailand and Belarus against despots in 2021, the Chilean referendum to fulfill the democratic aspirations of the people, the impulsive resistance in India to the agricultural laws promoting corporate interests, and the mass protest of Indonesia against the controversial Collective act that attacks workers’ rights; in the defeat of imperialist conspiracies in Bolivia; in collecting taxes on the rich and wealthy of Argentina; in Zambia’s delinquency decision, which defied the debt hawk’s scare tactics.
Hope is an incurable disease that keeps us alive and moving. Be safe and healthy. Let us reflect on the lessons of the crisis. the relationship with our governments; Social contract and trust; Measures of social progress; and how our economies are more distributive and regenerative or sustainable.
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