A future without hope

January 20, 2022

The writer is a freelance journalist.The recent surge in coronavirus cases across the world has scuppered the chances of the economic recovery that millions were desperately waiting for. Europe and...

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The writer is a freelance journalist.

The recent surge in coronavirus cases across the world has scuppered the chances of the economic recovery that millions were desperately waiting for. Europe and the US – the world’s economic engines – have witnessed a phenomenal spike in Covid cases in recent weeks. China is also witnessing a resurgence of the virus, and countries in the Global South are also not immune from the catastrophic onslaughts of Covid-19.

The ever-evolving variants of the virus keep haunting health experts globally. The death toll is rising in many countries, forcing some of them to take extreme measures besides creating fears about the possible postponement of several global events that have the potential of attracting billions of dollars. If the situation does not get better, it could affect the Winter Olympics or the Beijing 2022 which is scheduled from February 4 to 20 in China. The country has invested huge amounts of funds to make the event successful.

According to a December 24 ‘CNBC’ report, China took a number of steps over the years to facilitate the event in the hope that it would generate a lot of economic activities. It further added, “Since 2015, when it was announced that Beijing and its surrounding cities would play host in 2022, the Chinese government has been pushing for the development of winter sports. Some incentives include dishing out tax exemptions and increasing access to resources, as it hopes to attract 300 million people by 2022.”

The report noted that by the end of last year, the area developed for ski resorts in Zhangjiakou had 169 routes stretching over 162 kilometres and more than 10,000 pieces of equipment available for rental. Together, the seven ski resorts in the same city can now host more than 50,000 people in a day, the report revealed citing municipal government reports.

These efforts on the part of the Chinese government seem to have some benefits. For instance, the same report noted that the number of visitors to China’s ski resorts tripled from 5.5 million in 2009 to 15.1 million in 2016, but this was before the Covid-19 pandemic. Now with the rise of coronavirus cases in several parts of the world, it is uncertain whether China can safely hold the event amid the devastating pandemic.

If the situation does not change drastically in the next few months, similar questions will also be asked about the FIFA World Cup scheduled towards the end of this year in Qatar. It is not only a sports event but also a giant economic activity that has the potential of generating billions of dollars besides stimulating sections of the global economy. The event that is likely to take place in five cities is already believed to have attracted around $200 billion in arrangements with Qatar expecting to host 1.5 million football fans during the event. It is predicted that the event is likely to contribute around $20 billion to its economy and will boost the airline and hotel industries and a number of other sectors globally, helping revitalise a moribund global economy. But with the surge of new coronavirus cases, such hopes seem to be evaporating.

China had big plans for the promotion of sports within the country, wishing to make it a $773 billion industry by 2025. The main purpose of investing in the sports industry was to create more jobs and attract investments. According to Front Office Sports, a website dealing with sports, the giant country planned to increase the number of people participating in regular physical activities to 38.5 by 2025, launching plans to ensure every community has gym equipment and to build and renovate more than 2000 stadiums, sports parks and fitness centres. The plan also included employing three million people as fitness trainers. The website claimed that Chinese sneaker manufacturers and other sports-related companies saw a jump in their shares after the goals were released.

It is estimated that if Beijing’s goals are met by 2025, the sports industry would total 3.3 percent of China’s GDP, up from 2.5 percent in 2015. But the new Covid-19 cases and the panic that they seem to have created may dash such hopes. China’s strenuous efforts effectively contained the virus, but the most recent resurgence indicates that the virus would continue to threaten the country’s economic ambition any time until the virus is globally eliminated.

It is not only these two events or countries where indications make it clear that the pandemic is still threatening economies and the nascent economic recovery, but the situation is not rosy also in other places, forcing the IMF to present a gloomy economic outlook. It seems that the emergence of new variants of the virus has created more problems for the complete recovery. IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva also expressed concerns over the situation. Addressing a Reuters event last month, Georgieva said, “A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth.”

Despite all the horrors of the pandemic, there does not seem to be a coordinated effort on the part of advanced capitalist countries to wipe out the virus. They seem to naively believe that if it is eliminated from the advanced world, it will be over. But only a global elimination of the virus will be effective, creating hopes for the economic recovery that seems to be a dream at the moment. Countries in the Global North are not ready to cooperate with states of the Global South in stamping out the virus. The North is more interested in doling out multiple doses to its own citizens while the mass majority in the world does not even have a single dose yet. More than 4.72 billion people worldwide, equal to about 61.5 percent of the world population, have received a single dose of Covid-19 vaccines. The number of fully vaccinated is even lower with some estimates suggesting that only 51 percent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated, a majority of which belongs to developed countries.

The global supply chain cannot be effectively run if a majority of people are left at the mercy of the lethal virus. Developed countries need to act responsibly, giving up vaccine politics. Vaccine nationalism will be destructive not only for their own countries but also for the global economy, upon which they heavily rely. It is prudent to make coordinated efforts to wipe out this lethal virus which cannot be done by immunising 50, 60 or even 90 percent of the world’s population. Unless the elimination is global, it is not going to work.

The pernicious tentacles of the virus seem to be gripping the world once again. Even after killing more than 5.54 million people, besides affecting over 328 million, the contagious virus still seems to be uncontainable. The pandemic has already caused a loss of more than four to eight trillion dollars to the global economy besides pushing over 100 million people into poverty.

Some experts believe that over half a billion people were pushed into poverty in 2020 as they paid health costs from their own pockets. The IMF chief has also admitted that one of the factors contributing to slow recovery is the uneven distribution of vaccines. The situation could only be addressed effectively by vaccinating the Global South, which houses a significant portion of the world’s workforce, on a war footing basis.

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