Sunday, April 5, 2020

A Post-Corona Scenario - Thoughts About an Uncertain World

Headed Somewhere - Picture Credit Travel Triangle
The world is engulfed by the Chinese corona virus epidemic, and it is difficult to believe predictions today that the problem will ebb away in three months. Crystal ball gazing often tends to be more accurate than expert opinion in the world, and in a world where conservatism of estimation is always favored, you can only remain under-prepared for the real situation. What is certain though is that the world will alter definitely in ways that we can perhaps not imagine, unless we look at the pre-epidemic situation to realize that globalism and globalization have proven to be a double edged sword. 

Corona virus epidemic has led us to seeing visuals of animals coming out in the open and 'reclaiming wildlife'. Romanticism of a new kind is setting in about the times, and questions on the modern lifestyle are being increased by ordinary people with unparalleled frequency. While the questions would of course be welcome, the romanticism seems questionable. Would people really want to go back to the 'gold old days'? The advancements we have today certainly help us to deal with several things. Science helped us progress, defeat epidemics and make our lives better. Technology gave us more spare time to create and imagine a better world. Would many of us really want to give all of that up? Would we be able to give up our mobile phones, our laptops and live like monks? It is perhaps better to be realistic on these fronts. We may perhaps go half way and see things changing, lifestyles altering in irreversible ways, but it is nowhere harking back to a good old days scenario as aspired by many.

In the developing world, particularly the countries on the cusp as I call them, one certain thing I predict is that people start demanding a spring break like in Europe and US. Or ask for greater work from home options. Work from home is the big success emerging for India and as I see it many tiger economies post lockdown will also appreciate its merits of cost savings on an organizational level. This kind of situation, often seen in the west, will become the norm for several companies, with working mothers being the biggest beneficiaries in these countries, thus bringing in more female participation. The kind and nature of this participation would remain questionable to an extent, but one can certainly expect this trend to become the norm very soon.

A major social transition as I see among people is that people may actually become even more conservative in their daily behaviours across the world, and particularly so in the new emergent economies. Fiscal prudence for the rainy day as a policy shall actually get doubly reinforced, as that is the key lesson many would like to take away from the epidemic. In the west, one would note even more interesting social phenomena. People may not become more religious with time; however, a greater sense of fatalism in their outlook for life can certainly be envisioned, creating a generation of brooders in all likelihood. I do not buy the nonsense of an impending population boom - in asuch an uncertain social environment, it makes little sense among people today to bear children, knowing not if they shall actually survive or not. Things are not like the good old days either, and children are deemed as a cost by a large number of people today, whether we like it or not. The indicator I would like to watch out for though is the reproductive rates - a continued fall over a 2-year time across the world would also help us make sense about how people view the world post corona. A rise in this rate, or at least a stability in the global numbers, would in my opinion, correlate with an overall sense of optimism and hope, though as I see it, there would be a fall for a couple of years, even in increasingly fatalist societies. Increasing sense of isolation and poor mental health among large sections of population would certainly be worrisome in my opinion.

On the economic front, there would be serious moral disruption of a kind difficult to deal with. In the west, one may actually see people scaling back on consumption. What is essential may get redefined there permanently for them, as one saw in Japan and Korea over the years. In countries like India, a fundamental question will now arise on the path that we want to take ahead. There is no easy answer on this, as a moral hazard of a different kind has started to emerge. The social messaging and the power of advertising will certainly take an irreparable hit - to what extent though is unpredictable.

One could argue that China has won and will be the winner economically from here. Such claims often ignore the stark reality that China may have very well lost its biggest market in a single stroke. Who will buy their products in a fatalist world where consumption loses relevance altogether? Much of this is true for the 'world's factories' - other emerging economies like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and even big economies like Indonesia and India to an extent will suffer short term damage - will it last? Perhaps. Even financial centres like Singapore and Hong Kong face hard choices - is a financial/knowledge economy so useful when this expertise race proved to have faltered at a time when the world needed it desperately? Even in times of such advancement, requiring six months to build a vaccine or three months to even come up with procedures replicating 100 year old techniques would make one question the very power of knowledge in today' society.

In the western world, Europe was anyway moving towards irrelevance slowly. This outbreak of the Chinese corona virus will just hasten it. The world will certainly not be the same anymore, as we see the old ageing population being left out to die to save the young ones. Problem is, the number of young in Europe is so few that the numbers that survive henceforth would by default reduce it to insignificance. With no consumption power, those economies are doomed, and little can be done to revive it for years to come. The increasing fatalist sense will further kill the zeal to do something about it, one fears. US will certainly become weaker than before, as it realizes the systemic weaknesses that plague them and are irreparable. How will it deal with this crisis and after would always remain a study to fascinate. However, the population will lose confidence in its own ability to deal with the crisis increasingly, come what may. A political divide that was nearly impossible to bridge will rip the country apart, and one could dare to say that nothing short of a civil conflict could arise in the near future. What emerges from it is impossible to predict - whatever emerges from it would certainly not have the same strength as before is certainly predictable. The economic power will certainly collapse, and a military state of sorts may just be visualized. Far fetched, but in an uncertain world, who would want more tensions to be added to their kitty? I am by nature a pessimist, and may have painted a negative picture. However, I like to search for hope where I see it. There is a change that is certainly coming for sure. I do not call it a bitter winter night - what I see is a long day of summer. Good things can certainly be expected, but to come to that point, a churning would be necessary. That churn is coming for sure. Let us wait and watch. And I hope at least that after the corona epidemic blows over, the world becomes a better place for one and all.


No comments:

Popular Front of India - What is The Organization All About?

Image Courtesy (DNA) As the Delhi Police filed a chargesheet in the court with respect to the mayhem resulting from the Delhi Violenc...