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Coronavirus Trajectory, Economic Crisis & Authority of US Governors

What is the COVID-19 update? Is the world on a path to recovery yet?

Some of the world is. China is, despite secondary outbreaks. Singapore numbers are expanding significantly. More concerned that the resilience of this virus is greater than expected. It's not a waltz, kind of tango. Start. Step back. On the economic side, those hit earliest, dealt with real crackdowns are now picking up. The numbers in Europe have plateaued and are going down. Today in New York City, hospitalizations for the first time, total number from coronavirus, going down. Not just new hospitalizations, total hospitalizations. Our health care system - not going to get overwhelmed. What a relief. It makes me feel better about second tier cities in the US. We're not anywhere close to a peak in the developing markets, poorer parts of the world. They will need a lot of economic support, a tremendous amount of testing that they don't have. It's going to be many months before they're through it. It's going to impact a lot of people.


What's the potential the world faces a global economic crisis worse than The Great Depression?

Pretty low, thankfully. But the numbers from the IMF today in their global outlook are the worst we've seen compared to banks or the World Bank. The more we learn, the worse the economic impact is. The more we learn, not necessarily the worse the health impact is. Those are two very different trajectories. We push down the curve, we can get numbers of people dying down. The more we push down the curve, the economic impact is greater. Challenges with restarting the economy are greater when you shut down absolutely everything. What we're seeing now from the IMF is a 3% contraction of the entire global economy in 2020. They expect a rebound in 2021. They have virtually no confidence in the 2021 figures. There's no upside. I've never seen that from an IMF outlook before. By far the worst economic crash since The Great Depression, much worse than the recession in 2008-2009, which had been the high watermark, post-Great Depression. That was a 0.1% contraction in 2009. We're looking at over 3%, potentially more downside. You can open the economy, but only incrementally. Even when you open it, people aren't consuming the way they used to. While the people dying are mostly not productive labor - in Italy, the average age is like 81, of folks that have died from this, the people you're taking out of the economy are productive labor. The jobs that aren't coming back, that's productive labor. Minimum this year and early next year 10% of the total labor force. The impact is going to be great. And that's before you see if major financial crises emanate from emerging markets. I'm worried about all of that.

Finally, what is with the showdown between Trump and state governors? Does Trump have "total" authority?

Of course he doesn't have total authority. That doesn't abdicate total responsibility. Trump says things in his press conferences, they're a waste of time. They continue to be aired by television and everyone says, "oh my God, Trump has said this stuff," but the reality is the American system is a federal system. Governors matter. School systems, sanitation engineers, managers, workers report to the governors. The fire brigade and police forces, the governors. When you shut down the economy, the governors are the ones saying, "we've got to shut it down." And when you reopen it, they say, "we're going to reopen it." Trump's president. If he wants to say, "I'm the one that's ultimately in charge, the buck stops here at my desk," he can say that. The reality is that the governors matter a lot more. The very good news is that most of the governors in the United States are capable, competent. Have empathy for their citizens. And they also have bureaucracies with expertise, they listen to those people. Not just New York and California, also Ohio and Massachusetts and Maryland. Republican governors, too, acting effectively. There have been a few, particularly Florida, as well as a couple of mostly rural states, that haven't had explosions of cases, that have not gotten with the program. They'll probably suffer more as a consequence. The majority of the country is being governed by capable folks, doesn't involve the White House. That's just fine.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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