Ian Bremmer: Coronavirus Global Developments & Outlook

This week began with a staggering Trump press conference. Doctors Fauci & Birx giving an expectation of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US, presuming nationwide social distancing by the end of this week and hospitals don't get overwhelmed. You will be personally affected, with personal knowledge of people in hospital, killed by this disease.

Does the US end up more like Italy or more like South Korea? Washington State responding quickly with lockdown, improving health care capabilities is like South Korea. Parts of the US not under lockdown. Many states on the "periphery" of the mainline US economy. Some had later breakout of coronavirus. Some did not have political leadership.


Here in New York City, response was late. Had resources to attract federal, global support, buying critical equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to improve infrastructure. I expect 4 to 5X daily cases in NY, the next several weeks. The NY medical system may not have to triage patients away from ICU care. Unlikely for parts of southern FL, New Orleans, Georgia, other states. Some of US will feel like Italy, and other parts like South Korea.

Record levels of inequality not seen since the Gilded Age, before the Great Depression, grow dramatically. 10 million new unemployment claims in just 2 weeks. Reflected in broad expectations of US unemployment by the middle of this year. If we're roughly at 10% now, may get to 13% - 17%. Staggering numbers, priced into markets. Economic relief from the US government is adequate for the next 3 months, more money is likely.

This is where you give the highest marks for the US. Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of Treasury, and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, worked together on an economic package allowing the US to effectively respond to the biggest economic shock of our lifetimes. If Obama and a Republican House, you would not have expected faster or better, on the fiscal side.

Health care response lacking coordination in the US, with governors bidding against each other to get ventilators and masks. What does that mean? Those with money, international connections, better bureaucracies get more. This should be nationally coordinated. It's not.

Europe? Same problem, lack capacity or coordination. It's worse. In some cases, active refusal to engage in social distancing, several countries with vertical separation of at-risk populations. In Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK. It has failed. European countries are not getting necessary medical personnel or equipment to surge. In Spain and France, medical systems are overwhelmed, as in northern Italy. Other countries, Germany, doing well. You're not seeing coordination.

Absence of coordination globally makes optimism harder. Some areas may functionally control outbreaks in the next 8 weeks - end of May, beginning of June, in parts of the US, could release some of the present lockdown. Getting to work, data on who is and is not already gotten the disease, has immunity. Scaled, random testing. Coordination is lacking, requiring more stringent border controls; supply chains will be ineffective.

In the developing world, you lack coordination. In some parts, governance is horrible. Implementation isn't there. Health care systems aren't up to speed. Economic support, if not domestic, will not be there internationally. If they need 10% of GDP in relief, but can only pay 1%-2% percent, where's the rest of the money going to come from? There will be some international relief, but not massive humanitarian support.

China sending lots of medical personnel and equipment. It's nowhere close to what the Americans or Europeans would be capable of. The developing world is going to be really short, late. This will spread like wildfire. Upside for emerging markets: populations are younger, so mortality should be lower. Restarting the global economy will take longer. Supply chain and travel will take a hit.

Think about the global economy. Think about humanity as one common humanity. This global crisis lacks coordinated response. The US won't be the epicenter. The developing world can't do social distancing because people are on top of each other & don't have basic sanitation. We're going to give them less money, they'll have less capacity. The human impact is going to be greater.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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