Restarting the Economy

How to Restart the Economy and Ease the Lockdown Measures?

Covid-19 pandemic has caused a global depression within a few months. There is no cure currently as of this writing or a vaccine. The only viable option available to remove these economic sudden stops and bring back productivity and normalcy is to design a way to stop the spread of the virus transmission.

Thus far, the governments and various health departments have issued self-isolation measures, lockdown measures, advice on PPE such as N95 respirators and surgical masks, hand sanitisers, washing the hands with soap for minimum of 20 seconds to dissolve the virus. But the measures have not been enough to stop the contagion and rise in number of deaths globally. Here is a snapshot of the global pandemic via John Hopkins University

There is a case in every continent, and those who initially flattened the curve such as Singapore and South Korea and China are reporting new cases. The second wave and reinfection are what is preventing those countries from a return to normal. To be precise, pre Covid-19 normal.

Furthermore, what we know so far from the researchers is that even if vaccine is developed, the vaccine fades away and the risk of infection remains once it does. We are coming dangerously close to a time, where only the healthy population survives and the others slowly inch closer to death. This is a stark reality when you look at the number of deaths and how quickly it has spread globally. The first cases were reported some say in December, some say in November, the bottom line however, is that in Four Months, the global cases stand at 2.9M, the deaths at 203.5K.

There is no consistency in measures and response either, different policy makers have taken different approaches. Some who responded earlier, limited the number of fatalities, others who were slow to respond and hoping for herd immunity have witnessed an exponential rise in number of cases and deaths. In previous wars, military heroes and political heroes emerged. In this new war, it is the doctors and nurses fighting the invisible forces of the universe.

The health damage is not limited to covid-19 fatalities, the mental health, domestic abuse, paedophilia, sexual and physical abuse is creeping and gripping upon those who are vulnerable. Here is an article by FT related to this subject; The Hidden Health Costs of UK Lockdowns. This is not just a UK phenomenon. The bigger risks are developing countries.

The reason I am mentioning this is because everything is very much connected to the global financial system. Economic failures, risks and unemployment in the developing world where many are daily labourers face unprecedented risks. This economic collapse of demand and work is creating ripples and affecting the mental health.

Economic Impact

To understand the global monetary system and how it is currently shaping, have a read of this thread by Raoul Pal of Real Vision. Flight to dollars has caused a shortage of dollars globally, everybody wants to hold the reserve currency because 55% transactions occur in dollars globally. The stock market has seen outflows in trillions of dollars since the spread of pandemic.

The travel and tourism industry has come to halt with forecasted business travel spend revenue loss in billions of dollars. According to data by Statista, China is projected to lose $404.1 bn, Europe is projected to lose $190.5 bn, with the rest of the regions bringing the forecasted total to $810.7 bn. The actual numbers will be much worse because it is difficult to quantify the impact of coronavirus and the extension of lockdowns with each milestone.

Here is a look at US Non-Farm Payrolls for the month of March. April’s data will be released on the 1st Friday of May given no delays. The US economy lost 701 thousand jobs in March, much worse than market expectations of a 100K cut, reflecting the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it. It is the first decline in payrolls since September of 2010, but the figures were not as bad as those seen in 2008 as the number excludes the last two weeks of March when unemployment claims surged by nearly 10 million. About two-thirds of job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, mainly in food services and drinking places. Employment also declined in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction via Trading Economics.

I think the next couple of months are going to look terrible,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters. “You’re going to see numbers as bad as anything we’ve ever seen before.” Reported 26thApr20, 15:33 BST.

The US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, less than market expectations of a 22 million cut, and after declining by 870K in March. It is the largest drop ever, bringing the employment to 131 million, its lowest level since February 2011, due to the coronavirus pandemic and consequent restrictive lockdown restrictions imposed such as business closures. Job losses were widespread, with the largest 7.7 million decline occurring in leisure and hospitality. Almost three-quarters of the decrease occurred in food services and drinking places (-5.5 million). Employment also fell in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry (-1.3 million) and in the accommodation industry (-839,000). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised down by 45,000 to +230,000, and the change for March was revised down by 169,000 to -870,000. With these revisions, employment changes in February and March combined were 214,000 lower than previously reported. [Trading Economics]

I do not think any amount of economic data justifies the message I am trying to convey. The reality is not yet fully quantifiable. Looking at the April NFP data, some of the quantifiable impact can be seen. Although investors such as Ray Dalio and others iterate that this was a likely outcome, coronavirus is the cause for the effects which would have inevitably taken hold of the global economy. He is right, the global economy would have come to this point because of some other cause. However, what can we do to address current issues? What can the people with wealth and money do to address this issue? Call me a cynic but, is that best that they can do? With vast resources in possession, the best minds, tech available? I am sure they are equally dumbfounded at their own powerlessness when faced with the forces of universe. We have already witnessed negative oil prices, the futures for May WTI Crude oil contract settling in negative territory for the first time in history. What more are we waiting for before we kickstart the economy? Yes, it is a dangerous approach and majority are against it because everyone fears the virus, the risk of reinfection and the burden on the health and medical facilities. However, we leave many bigger problems unaddressed, if we do not find an alternative to a new normal. A normal amidst the pandemic and a post-pandemic normal. Politicians are weaponizing the pandemic in US to smear at each other’s inadequate responses.

I am addressing this document as a proposal to put out an alternative solution. It seems a viable option, effective in theory to stop person to person transmission of the virus. It can be an effective way of easing the lockdown measures while researchers and scientists work hard at finding a cure and developing a vaccine. And as we know thus far, vaccine is not the ultimate solution. I am sure the people involved in inventing and designing these measures are doing their best and I wish them the best of luck, considering they are really putting the heart of the world before anything else.

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