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Calamity

Praying that by the time this article gets published, miraculously, the world has found a cure for the corona virus, and/or Pakistan has been able to control the epidemic.

Stay safe Pakistan.

Perhaps the most technologically advanced civilization in the history of mankind today stands completely and absolutely humbled.

This is uncertainty of the worst kind.

Honestly speaking, notwithstanding that the author is not even competent to give any advice or views on the coronavirus, other than prayers, and social distancing, there appears to be nothing else that can be done at the individual level.

And it appears that most world Governments even are clueless on how to tackle the pandemic. Frankly given China’s recent successes, how difficult would it be to copy them?

Undoubtedly, the world is at war today; a microscopic enemy has brought mankind to its knees. And the world seemingly is still not unified. Should any country be standing alone in the fight against coronavirus? Let alone face sanctions!

One can only hope that those in position of power globally are moving all resources to find a cure on all fronts on a war footing; business as usual can wait.

In our case, lacking complete information, one can only wonder whether or not our State has intervened to jack up production, as far as possible, of the commodities necessary for prevention and social distancing; masks, gloves, sanitizers and soap.

And why cannot the State prevent hoarding? The minute Chloroquine came into limelight; it disappeared from the market in less than 24 hours.

The fact that doctors are on a strike for want of masks and gloves is exceedingly worrying. Perhaps the State needs separate task teams to strategise and plan for ensuring production and supply of each product; are our production facilities for key items operating at optimum levels and how is supply at reasonable price levels being ensured? Can the country start producing makeshift ventilators on a war footing?

It would also be useful – to avoid panic buying and hoarding if nothing else – for the State to release up-to-date information about possible cures running around in the social media. And in case where there is actually hope, step into ensure production and supply to the masses. Asking the public not to panic, will perhaps be futile, it is in our DNA to panic. Taking steps to mitigate panic situations is what the State needs to focus on.

Considering that we have very meagre resources to fight an epidemic, why are public offices, other than those fighting the war against the coronavirus, still operating?

Cannot taxes and corruption cases wait? Whether you like it or not, they will have to wait. Perhaps most public offices, those big buildings can be used as quarantine centres. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Admittedly, a lockdown will hurt the poor of the society horribly; but from what can be discerned from the information coming from the rest of the world, a lockdown appears inevitable. It is just a matter of time apparently.

The big question right now, of course after provision of health services, is – Do we have sufficient supplies of necessary commodities for the envisaged lockdown period, and what would it take for the government to ensure supply countrywide free of cost? If agriculture falters due to the lockdown, we will be facing a much bigger threat.

The wider economy, currency, debt and the stock market can wait. Production and provision of food supplies and key necessities, including medicine, is what the State needs to focus on today.

More likely than not, the domestic and the global economy will be a very different creature when the dust eventually settles; one prays for the best.

Unfortunately, a subject that could not even predict the great recession is unlikely to predict where things are heading today. And if economics cannot even predict, surely its theories are not the solution.

Free market, capitalism and greed definitely have no solution for a world at war with an unseen enemy.

Planning, information and timely decision making is the hallmark of good governance in testing times. Whilst the medical team fights for the nation, the economic team needs to burn the midnight lamp, dreaming up all kind of possible scenarios, the worst of what can go wrong, and come up with practical plans to alleviate the economic hardships of the masses.

The budget will not balance; tax recovery will crash; the economy will not grow. This is a battle for survival, live with this truth. And this is not panicking, this is plain simple pragmatism.

Most businesses have already closed down, and/or are closing; hotels, airlines, professional services, and exports. Working from home is not an option for the factory worker. And the majority do not have savings for a rainy day-let alone an endless perfect storm. Price control, optimising production, eliminating hoarding and efficient supply is what the economy needs today. Micro management is perhaps a necessity today, not a choice.

Admittedly, the above thoughts are based on incomplete data; hopefully those who can access credible information are thinking. For this is the time to think, plan and act- if we are to avoid, whence our prayers are answered and the virus is defeated, another calamity.

SYED BAKHTIYAR KAZMI, "Calamity," Business recorder. 2020-03-28.
Keywords: Economics , Political science , Economic hardships , Coronavirus , Pakistan , DNA

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