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July 6, 2020

Profit in a pandemic

Opinion

July 6, 2020

Several months ago, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) called to end medical profiteering during the recent coronavirus pandemic where the development of drugs, tests, and vaccines will be integral to our getting through this difficult moment in our collective history. While MSF is foreseeing a future inevitability, it is also highlighting what is already happening as many businesses are price-gouging essential products during this crisis.

In the UK the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently established a coronavirus task force to crack down on companies that cash in during the outbreak. In fact, the CMA has already contacted traders and online platforms about the inordinate pricing of certain products. In the Philippines, 59 people have been arrested for profiteering and hoarding and in Australia, the government has enacted measures to respond to Covid-19 profiteering with up to five years in jail.

In a moment when freelancers are finding themselves without any clients and most governments are forgetting to consider their economic needs in packages meant to salvage national economies, many are still making money during this pandemic. The kinds of companies thriving are of course those which produce personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks and gloves as well as the larger corporate structures around these industries. But there are also many businesses thriving at this moment which are not the usual suspects.

Meanwhile, during lockdown many people have sought out ways of staying economically viable while also in search for mental health support. For instance, online therapies to help deal with the stress of 24/7 with partner, kids and/or unbearable flatmates have sent many turning to natural remedies such as cannabis oil, exercise and even sourdough baking. Meanwhile others looked to shore up the damage caused by lockdowns and were conducting online investments in the micro-finance sector boomed in India and where companies providing investment news like LearnBonds started to explode by people suffering the effects of long-term cabin fever.

Even New Zealand’s far briefer lockdown fueled cryptocurrency investments. Around the planet as consumers were shifting to online shopping as the safety default and so too were many businesses moving more and more of their sales online. Invariably we will see many studies in the near future that discuss how capitalism was changed by Covid-19.

Among the many fraudsters out to make a quick buck selling masks to healthcare workers at extortionate prices, there have been a few more ethical companies that found themselves surprisingly in need during lockdown. Video conferencing platform Zoom has found itself in high demand internationally as it is has been used by businesses whose workers have had to conference call from their kitchens.

Even pet supplier, Chewy, and lesson-to-meal kit company, Blue Apron, were surprised by the upsurge in sales during this crisis. Similarly, there are other business like the bulk packaging manufacturing sector which have not been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Excerpted from: 'Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19'.

Counterpunch.org