Friday, May 22, 2020

Lost Lives and Lost Livelihoods

Governments across the globe are facing difficult decisions. Economist John Robertson has written about the challenges facing governments. Here are excerpts from his article

The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping the nature of political decision making as government leaders are compelled to link changes in their policies to the number of lives lost or gained.

The toughest public policy challenges since the Second World War will confront governments in the next few months as they strive to save lives while simultaneously restarting businesses shuttered by their coronavirus fighting policies.

Despite the seriousness of the consequences, governments take great care to camouflage the trade-off between life and livelihood in day-to-day policymaking, counting on policy impacts being sufficiently diffused so as to make direct attribution unclear.

In the face of natural disasters or calamitous accidents, every effort is thrown at finding survivors, or even saving properties, no matter how improbable the task. Only when the risk of survival is deemed to be zero does the effort subside.

The Covid-19 crisis is on a different scale. The chance of eliminating fatalities is zero. The upper limit of deaths could be in the millions. Bad, bleak and catastrophic are the three daunting scenarios confronting those in charge.

The lowest possible death toll, government leaders of every political hue and temperament agree, involves knowingly imposing unprecedentedly severe and widespread economic hardship.

However reluctantly, the most well meaning governments now have to decide how many lost lives and how much financial pain can be tolerated. There is no ducking the responsibility. Even procrastination is a choice.

Read the entire article here.

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