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Why governments will be key to global recovery from the pandemic

As nations grapple with economic recovery, which is closely linked with getting people vaccinated and arresting the coronavirus spread, it has become clear that the pandemic exacerbated the impact of the global economic fractures that predate the COVID-19 outbreak. Dambisa Moyo, global economist and author of “Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth And How to Fix it” joins to discuss the risks and potential for resilience.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Last week, the International Monetary Fund projected that the increase of COVID-19 vaccines would help fuel a global economic recovery in 2021. Long before the coronavirus outbreak, there were already structural economic fractures across the globe that have added to the economic fallout from the pandemic.

    For a look at the risks and potential for resilience, I recently spoke with Dambisa Moyo, global economist and author of the book "Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth And How to Fix It."

    Miss Moyo, when we look around the world, it seems that COVID has laid bare some of the existing inequalities that in a way we've chosen to avoid. What is our potential here as we recover out of this pandemic?

  • Dambisa Moyo:

    Well, I think the most important thing is for people to understand that the structural inequalities, whether it's in education, in health care, in income, have been an erosion in the US in particular, but more globally for many decades. And indeed, if you look back to before the COVID crisis, a lot of economists were worried about not just income inequality and inequality in general, but also the low growth environment in which will likely persist for many decades to come.

    Looking ahead, what can we do about this? And I would argue that government's role, not just in terms of debt and deficits, is going to become much more important as an arbiter of capital and labor. So really in the economy, but also in terms of taking on a much bigger responsibility for what traditionally we would call as welfare.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Why is the government necessary to pull us not just out of the pandemic, but to address some of these structural inequalities you're talking about?

  • Dambisa Moyo:

    So it's not just about partnership with government, which is crucial. So if you look back in American history, the government was very much an important partner in the development of Silicon Valley, in the Manhattan Project, et cetera.

    But it's also about making sure that the public sector, it can view the private sector as a partner for solving some of the big challenges that the world faces today, not just inequality, but health care, education, infrastructure.

    These are areas that traditionally were the purview only of the public sector. But just look around the world, governments are now relying on and corporations are stepping up in these places in a much bigger way.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What's also interesting is being a public and private partnerships is how quickly the vaccines were able to be developed and in some places rolled out, what kind of potential do you see here on how this particular case has taught us about how drugs can be developed, how they can be delivered?

  • Dambisa Moyo:

    Enormous. It really a huge signal, as you know, it usually takes seven to 10 years with the development of a vaccine. We've been able to do that in less than 10 months. And technology has really shown itself to be important, not just in terms of consumerism and social media networks, but really as a platform and as a catalyst for getting to these answers around health care and vaccines, et cetera, in a much faster way.

    And so I'm very optimistic about not just government and not just the private sector, but really the fact that that technology is shown itself to really provide an impetus and a way for us to address some of these very challenging problems.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    When you look across the landscape, what had happened in the United States over the past four years and increased nationalism is not in a vacuum. It's happening in parts of Europe and parts of Asia as well. What does the way that the world is responding to the pandemic show us? Are any of these policies going to soften? Or are nations going to find a different solution?

  • Dambisa Moyo:

    It's impossible for us to address something like a pandemic, as I think it's become clear in a sort of every nation for itself approach. We need cooperation. These are problems that pervade borders. They are global by their very nature, and they throw up an enormous array of challenges that require not just individualized thinking, but much more sort of everyone come to the table and think about these in a much more strategic way.

    So I am optimistic that we will see a reset in this space. But we have to understand that people rightly are frustrated by globalization and its disappointments and also the lack of economic performance by many around the world.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of the key drivers in, at least in the United States, dysfunctional response to the pandemic has been misinformation and disinformation. Social networks that are, regardless of nation states, are able to inject doubt into vaccines, into government pronouncements. How does the world deal with, say, a company that is almost more powerful than the United Nations would be in terms of disseminating information?

  • Dambisa Moyo:

    I think fundamentally the fourth estate and really the importance of the media, a cornerstone for democracy and for society to function. I think that rather than look for short term solutions, I don't think people are very attracted by the proposition of regulation, etc.

    But I think we need to go back to basics. And part of that is education, civics education, making sure our citizens as a global citizenry really understand the functioning of our governments, whether it's the legislature, the executive or the judiciary, but also really understand the workings of the economy. Otherwise, I think we will be in for more trouble if we're not able to get ahead of this. And education is critical as far as I'm concerned.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Dambisa Moyo, thank you so much.

  • Dambisa Moyo:

    It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

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