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Reimagining Globalization For A Post COVID 19 World
The world mourns that poorer nations, who do not avail the opportunities that global-commerce supplies, will not be spared lasting socio-economic repercussions of the disease import.
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The novel coronavirus pandemic has become an unwitting crystal-clear proof of how interconnected the world truly is in today’s age. Viruses, not subject to national borders, have always found a way to travel far and wide from their point of origin. The Black Death, carried by fleas living on the back of rats fleeing grassland habitats due to climate change, rushed into more populated areas and rode along the silk road with Mongol armies, traders or ships, on to Europe. The horseman of pestilence once again rides along the silk road as COVID 19 threatens lives and severs supply chains along the world, unleashing a new recession.
This is a first of its kind pandemic in terms of scale of impact as one-third of the world’s population is under lock-down. Landmarks across the world lie deserted and people are doing their best to work and learn from home. On a more positive note, the speed at which medication and vaccine response is unfurling is also unprecedented, with pha se 1 trials starting within 3 months of occurrence.
Popular US media will soon go from calling the world ‘post 9/11’ to ‘post COVID 19’. Many experts around the world are of the opinion that this marks the end of globalization as we know it. While the outbreak is a huge showdown of the vulnerability and cascading reach of the globalized supply chain, ringing the death knell for globalization would account to overstatement.
In this hyper-connected world, information about the virus is spreading faster than ever. Yet again, fear spreads fastest, and leads to ill-informed responses. Needless to say, closing borders will not contain the borderless entity. Globalizations may appear to be the easy contender for blame, but the fault lines are spread across the system. Zoonoses are on the rise as wildlife habitats continue to be plundered and humans live within close unsanitary contact to animals. Healthcare systems, without much revamp since their creation post the second world war, are not prepared to handle surging patient volumes. Despite leaders like Bill Gates warning of pandemic-preparedness, inaction has been the norm.
As the world runs short of masks owing to dependency on Chinese manufacturers and countries leading the supply of pharmaceutical ingredients ban exports in prioritizing the crisis handling at home, fingers point at globalization. The world mourns that poorer nations, who do not avail the opportunities that global-commerce supplies, will not be spared lasting socio-economic repercussions of the disease import. Of the latter, close examination will reveal that inequality is the real problem and not globalization.
The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.- William Gibson
AI powered supply chains ensuring deliveries at the click of a mouse, overlooked the weakest link in the chain – absence of diversification of the supplier-pool. As the age old adage goes, don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Countries also need to develop redundancy – more ways of doing the same thing – and have options ready to manufacture critical goods like medical supplies at multiple easily-accessible sources.
Many of the tools being wielded to fight coronavirus exist thanks to the shared reserves created by globalization: data models on disease spread, virus spread tracking maps, vaccine prototypes, collaboration between the international scientific community. The contact tracing strategy used successfully during SARS is helping flatten the COVID 19 curve today, only because of a culture of knowledge-sharing. Facing this unexpected lockdown, the citizens of the world find solace and solidarity in the online global connections.
Even before this pandemic, globalization was steadily changing. McKinsey reported increasing local consumption within emerging economies, rising labour costs, trade in services growing 60% faster than goods over the past decade and knowledge-intensive global value chains; urging companies to reconsider their global strategy. The next era of globalization will be increasingly about automated manufacturing, local goods trading and global trading of digital services and knowledge capital.
Developed nations might not be able to outsource their manufacturing related carbon footprint to emerging economies.
Every system, every piece of technology contains an inherent potential to be used – which could very well be misused. Globalization in essence is value-neutral and an evolving system that will probably reshape for greater resilience in the near future. In the time of crisis, it’s worthwhile to allot one’s cognitive faculties to solving the issue at hand rather than playing the blame-game or fearmongering.
We must ask ourselves some important questions, to help us build a better post coronavirus world:
- How to end inequality?
- How to build more resilient supply chains?
- How to strengthen global public health capacities?
- How to tackle climate change without killing economic growth?
Well within the spirit of globalization, worldwide co-operation on research, development and risk management will assuage future pandemic impact. It’s imperative to see that if we are vulnerable together, we are also stronger together. Let’s remember that we are all standing on shoulders of giants: the achievements of the industrial era led to the digital revolution whose benefits we are all reaping. These achievements are the fruit of the collective contributions of humanity, and its only together that we can grow and scale new heights.
We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. - R Buckminster Fuller
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.