We need Globalisation back!
Governments need to give up their cultural and political feuds to work as one against COVID-19. The only way forward is global.
The past decade has seen many seismic shifts in the world. Trump in America, Brexit in Britain and the slow degradation of the EU are but to name a few. These shifts were not seen coming by many, but some saw the signs. They mark a crisis not just in global politics, but also a crisis in globalisation itself. The past decade has seen a surge of national protectionism spread across the world. We are in a state of oxymoronic affairs. We are more interconnected with people than ever before, yet the nations we reside in are trying to put up physical and psychological barriers to divide us.
Gordon Brown, in a recent interview with the NewStatesman, remarked that we have become a “global coalition of anti-globalists”. The world has not stopped being global, but nations are far more resistant to global cooperation than they were a decade ago. However, we need global cooperation now more than ever.
The 2008/2009 financial crisis caused many nations to begin restricting global cooperation. The economic downturn of their nations meant that they needed to look more inward and attempt to revitalise their economies. Many succeeded. The largest economies in the world managed to scrape through by giving into government support. But some economies, like Greece, had a much more difficult route out.
The stench of the refusal to cooperate hangs in the air, whilst COVID infects below.
The financial crisis shattered any state’s confidence in the global system. Many began to revert back to the pre-Second World War strategy of isolationism. Brexit and Trump are key examples of the way in which the world came to adopt a policy of ‘globalised protectionism’, where nations remained economically global but became socially and politically short-sighted. It is impossible in this age for nations to completely shut their economies, due to global supply chains and geographic decentralisation of workforces. However, by using the adequate political rhetoric, governments were able to adopt such protectionism whilst remaining economically global.
The problem now is we need nations to open back up again. COVID-19 is not a national crisis. It infects and affects everyone, regardless of colour, creed, race or gender. The only way to solve this crisis is through universal cooperation of all nations. Already, nations have started to resist this call, with the USA already cutting its funding to the WHO pending a review. This is the opposite of what the world needs right now.
Have things been done perfectly by every nation and organisation during this pandemic? Of course not. But we can review where we went wrong after COVID has been eliminated. For now, global cooperation in Health, Social and Economic areas are needed more than ever.
Gordon Brown in his NS interview advised that we need to adopt a global policy of “health multilateralism”. He gives three key things that the world needs to work together to achieve:
1. Create and distribute a vaccine to every corner of the world.
2. Test kits, ventilators and PPE need to be available for all health workers.
3. Preventing second and third rounds of COVID.
These objectives are needless to say pretty obvious. However, they need to be stated over and over again otherwise governments will not listen. The last decade of national self-protectionism has been deafening and will not suffice when fighting a global pandemic and ensuing economic recession. Nations must resist the urge to bring market competition into a situation where it’s neither needed nor wanted. This is not the time for profit making. This is a time for life saving. Nations need to restrain their desire for financial profit and cooperate to make sure that health sectors and services are fully protected and resourced. Moreover, only global cooperation will allow the vaccine to reach everyone. Nations must not monopolise vaccines but create a global supply chain where it can be distributed on an unprecedented scale around the world.
The last decade of national self-protectionism has meant that countries now vary in levels of social equality. This needs to change. Once again, Brown outlines four key things that every country needs to do to protect not just their own people, but global society:
1. Make work pay.
2. Re-invest in social mobility.
3. Fair distribution of wealth and income.
4. A safety net for the poorest in society.
Again, these four things seem obvious. Either governments are naïve or ignorant to the fact that these outlines are basic and essential to a society functioning well. Brown argues for a “social contract” which he says will provide a “universal basis” for societies around the world. For developed nations, these four tasks would not be a massive issue to put in place. However, for less developed nations, where this type of universal basis is most needed, it will be more difficult. This is why nations need to cooperate. In this crisis, it is not just about protecting your own. That will only get you so far. Only a global network of nations working towards the same goal will defeat this virus.
Nations need to ensure that not just their own social care sectors are sufficing, but that others are doing the same. Keeping nations accountable through global communication will mean that no nation will be allowed to slip through the cracks.
Governments across the world have been franticly attempting to juggle their economies since the COVID outbreak began, trying not to drop any balls in the process. Keeping the economy running is essential. If they let it stagnate, then it will have drastic effects on the global economy at large. Brown played a crucial role in recovering the global economy after the 2008/2009 financial crisis and in his NS interview mentions two things:
1. Running a deficit.
The social and political attitude towards these two economic aspects have changed much since Brown was in office as Prime Minister. Both running a deficit and moderate inflation were seen as the anti-Christ in the aftermath of 2008/2009. Now a decade later, the attitude has changed. Governments are not as scared at running deficits and handling moderate inflation levels as they once were. And it is a good job too, because the only way to return national economies to substantial growth both during and after the pandemic is through using these two tools.
It will be a challenge to return to the Keynesian economics that dominated the 1950s and 1960s, however running a deficit may be essential to keeping national economies afloat. It will give nations more stability by spending more on infrastructure and consumer goods, which will spark employment and therefore increase income levels. Running a deficit will provide more demand from the economy, which will cause it to grow. The actual issue of the deficit itself is something to deal with in the future. The current issue that governments are facing is how can they keep their economies running. Again, this is a global effort. By keeping developed economies running, it provides less developed nations with the time needed to kickstart theirs.
Moreover, developed nations will also need to run economies with moderate levels of inflation, around 4–5%. This will encourage people to buy now rather than later when prices will be higher, thus increasing short term demand and much needed economic growth. And, as long as inflation does not exceed 6%, developed economies can comfortably accommodate such levels.
The key with national economies at the moment is that those who are more developed need to keep running. Whether it be through deficit spending, inflation, or a combination of the two. They need to do so to save less developed economies completely collapsing. Global supply chains need to keep running to as large a degree as possible. This not only supports developed economies with consumer goods, but also supplies the less developed economies with income and employment, providing a safety net above any sort of economic deflation and depression.
The need for globalisation now is more prominent than ever. The past decade needs to be put to one side and political interests need to be put on hold. The issue however is the past decade has caused some great global chasms to emerge between nations. The stench of the refusal to cooperate hangs in the air, whilst COVID infects below. If the pandemic is to be stopped, then the answer can only be global. No one nation has the individual capacity to save themselves. Moreover, who will rescue the economies of the less developed? The requirement for globalisation has been met with stark refusal. This needs to change, otherwise more people will die.
Governments need to give up their cultural and political feuds to work as one against COVID. The only way forward is global.
(Note: Read the full NewStatesman’s interview with Gordon Brown online at: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2020/04/gordon-brown-solution-crisis-still-global)