Ian Bremmer: Re-opening the Economy

The health care system in New York City is not likely to get overwhelmed, with enough ventilators and equipment for the person needing critical care. If that's true in New York with a substantial breakout, then second tier cities should also get suitable support, both from states that have extra and from the federal government, with more time to secure it. We're not going to see Northern Italy in the United States, good news.


In Europe, in Italy, in Spain, social distancing is making a difference. Hopefully this is the week we've hit the peak in NYC. Can't say that about the US as a whole, but grateful it's not getting worse.

The developing market piece has not hit yet and is a very big problem. They don't have the health care systems; governance is more uneven than the US or Europe. You can't socially distance even if you want to. In Brazil, 25% of the population lives in slums and favelas. In India, Sub-Saharan Africa, a lot higher than that. Explosive outbreaks. Not only is the economic hit going to be worse, but also the ability to reintegrate into supply chains of the West. Reintegrate travel takes longer, until you get strong, serology tests; convinced that parts of the population have immunity and you can reintegrate them; get a vaccine at scale.

Here in the United States, talking about what it means to start reopening the economy. Governor Abbott of Texas did a good job yesterday, saying, "I'm going to make a big announcement, an executive order about reopening the economy," sounds like he's on board with Trump. But he hasn't said when, or exactly how - don't yet have the medical experts on board. Saying you're in favor of reopening the economy, moving in that direction without anything too explicit lest you get caught. Governor Abbott in TX and Governor Cuomo in New York sound different; actual policies are less disparate.

As much as the country is divided over Trump, they are less divided over the governors and the mayors, who actually implement shutdowns. The vast majority of the country is locked down. The country will come on the back of science, what doctors say. Even some Republican governors will be more cautious in following Trump on getting the economy restarted. I expect that in Massachusetts, in Maryland, in Ohio. Question will be: states that decide to open significantly early, especially when that changes people's behavior and they socially distance less. What happens in secondary outbreaks, do you shut it down? If you don't, what happens to other states and how they respond to people that may be traveling from your state? But more coordinated behavior from the governors and mayors than is being portrayed.

The broader question is how to restart the economy, companies? I've been impressed with efforts put in place by many CEOs. They understand that in order to get companies running again:

First, medical guidance from Fauci, Birx, etc, that there's testing, we understand immunity, confidence that the health care system and understanding of the virus is suitable.

Second, confidence around workplace infrastructure. Guidelines around cleaning, the availability of masks, hand sanitizers for employees. It's expensive, needs to be coordinated.

Finally, not only does the workplace have to be safe, but also public transport. Schools, daycares, cafeterias can be open and there is safe, healthy food supply daily.

Health care, medical guidance has to come from the CDC and NIH. Getting companies running can be done by the companies. Getting people into work and having public infrastructure, cities and states.

We can start to loosen lockdown, start to behave differently. That's different from the economy being reopened, we don't need relief efforts from the public sector. You can't start talking about getting the economy moving faster, until you're opening it up. I think we're looking at contraction this whole year.

I'd be surprised if we reopen in a way that suggests sustainable growth. Maybe end of fourth quarter, could start to see it. The country will feel better because we will have hit bottom. That's different from the economy growing. The impact that's going to have for the working and middle classes, is a real challenge.

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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