28/02/2021

A year of pandemic

3 min
A year of pandemic

The pandemic broke out one year ago. With the vaccine we are on our way out of it, and we can begin to draw lessons. I count ten of them.

1. The pandemic surprised Europe - remember the scepticism regarding the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress. However, it has been reacted to and, if we compare it with the 1918-20 flu, it is clear that the balance will be much more positive in terms of fatalities. In economic terms - a secondary criterion - it will have to be studied when the episode is over. However, even if children are not dying as before, we have seen that humanity is still biologically fragile. This will not be the last pandemic. For the next one we have to be more prepared.

2. Our sense of order inclines us to think that the pandemic crisis and the climate crisis are different faces of the same crisis. They are not: they are different, with different origins and extraordinarily different short-term negative impacts. But they do have one thing in common: combating them requires enormous scientific research efforts. We are seeing this with the pandemic. 120 years ago we didn't know what a virus was, and today we have a vaccine and I can't imagine that we would live waiting to get infected and see if we're lucky. It's the same for the climate: with the technologies we have now, we won't decarbonise. But with the ones we will have tomorrow, if we put our minds to it, we will achieve it.

3. Telematic connections have undergone a monumental stress test and have done spectacularly well. Without them, we would have had more deaths and a much steeper economic downturn. In fact, we have learned that we were not exploiting their full potential. From now on we will travel much less for work purposes and we will hold face-to-face meetings only when face-to-face meetings add value.

4. However, we are also realizing that in some areas we need to be cautious in the move to virtuality. Consider education. On the one hand, the effectiveness of knowledge transmission demands a certain degree of close interaction. On the other hand, compulsory on-site schooling attenuates, much more than virtual schooling, the influence of educational differences in the family environment. That's why I applaud the fact that the Generalitat's Department of Education has been very firm on the principle of keeping schools open.

5. We have discovered that long logistical chains are vulnerable. I am of the opinion that the solution is not radical deglobalisation. We cannot do everything everywhere. It is better to practice redundancy (including strategic reserves). Also redo and keep contingency plans highly trained.

6. We need more capacity in health systems inclusive of prevention, public health, and socio-health care. To be concrete and realistic: we need 1% more GDP in public health spending, and above all to take care of the talent of all kinds that the system still has today. For these points I cannot resist referring to the analysis made by the Cercle d'Economia.

7. We must strengthen the economic sector, both public and private, of care for the elderly. We will be helped by the fact that in the age of automation this is a potentially labour-intensive sector: a duly accredited person will always be a better companion than a robot, however cute it may be.

8. Why has Chile done so much better than the EU on vaccination? The 27 got it right by delegating the management of purchasing and distribution to the EU, but they did not realise that the EU did not have the necessary management muscle and experience in this area. Chile had both. Lesson: this crisis must lead to a strengthening of the EU's management capacities.

9.The principle of collective insurance should gain centrality: when nature strikes, the economic sacrifice must be shared. The Spanish experience, where some sectors have suffered more than others, and some have even had to sacrifice for the collective good, has not been at all satisfactory.

10. We have also learned that fiscal policy cannot be based on dogmatism. For the first time the EU will issue debt and the member states, aided by the ECB's monetary policy, have been able to do so without restrictions. However, what will remain is a situation in which European public debt will be massively owned by the states, but distributed in a very asymmetrical way. It will not be a sustainable situation indefinitely. On the horizon we have either a return to differential austerity policies or a collective assumption of the debt. The lessons of the crises of the last 12 years should lead us to build Europe along the second path.

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