Ian Bremmer: spin vs reality of COVID-19 response

More than 50% of the planet is presently locked in place. Impact on the global economy is extraordinary. Oil prices in the floor - when you shut down global supply and demand for the economy, you don't need a lot of energy. And when you have a limited amount of places to store that energy, further production is nearly worthless.

Here in the United States, what has been politically, reasonably functional so far is about to become much less so. Those of you watching the White House press conference every day, and if you watch cable news right afterwards, that's a complete shit show. It's made for television, political theater and drama. But the actual policies we've seen from the United States so far, have been reasonably coordinated.


What do I mean by reasonably coordinated? Well, first on the finance side, Fed Chief Jay Powell has been very effective and early in not just getting rates down, but also providing credit lines where necessary across the economy. Fiscal stimulus has been fast, has been bipartisan. There's going to be more coming for small businesses and NGOs that had initial hundreds of billions depleted quite quickly. That looks pretty close to passage. And also the reality is the governors are in charge. The governors engaged in the shutdowns and they didn't do so politically. They engaged in shutdowns as they realized they needed to engage in shutdowns. That's been fairly straightforward.

The big problem was health care. That was less about politics than the fact that the United States didn't have testing and adequate stockpiles of health care materials. When the World Health Organization offered a test, the Americans didn't use it. To be fair, the Americans usually use local CDC produced tests. When it was clear that they weren't working, they could have gone to use the W.H.O. approved tests, like the Germans; we didn't. So, that hurt and it hurt that we were late in coordinating and stockpiling critical health care material. People were more worried that the health care systems weren't going to work. But ultimately, that equipment got there, the masks got there to the people that most needed them, the health care workers. And that meant that we didn't see large numbers of health care workers getting sick and dying like in Northern Italy. And you never saw triaging of large numbers of people that needed critical care.

Going forward, it's going to get a lot more political. I think for a few reasons: First, even though we have health care systems that have surged, we don't have adequate testing, to be able to say that quarantines have worked the way we want and that we know we can reopen economies. But the pressure to reopen economies is gonna be massive because people are suffering. They're suffering from not being able to get to work. They're suffering because the economy is falling apart. They're suffering because they don't have child care and kids can't go to school. So, the pressure to restart economies is going to be immense. That would be a lot easier to deal with if you had the contact tracing and tests that we have seen early stage in Germany or South Korea.

Some states will have tests up and running, others will not. They'll be coordinated locally, not nationally. And as they open, some states will need to close again. According to the White House guidelines, two weeks in order to go from phase one to phase two. You're going to see additional cases. That's going to be a serious problem. People will be going back to the hospital. That's already started in Kentucky. Is that going to slow them down? I hope it does. And the fact that this is being done state by state is going to prove very problematic as the US economy starts reopening. And as, and all epidemiologists expect this, we get second outbreaks either this summer or in fall and winter.

I think on the fiscal side: We've got the $2 trillion done. We're going to see another $2 trillion done. That is almost all relief for having shut down the economy. But what about stimulus? What about getting companies going again, getting the economy going again, as we start reopening summer and fall? That's not going to be easy. That's not going to be politically bipartisan and coordinated like the last few tranches have been. They'll be much more politicized as the election is getting closer. And that means either there's going to be massive overspending and waste, which will cause a political bunfight afterwards and big fights, or it means that you're not going to get adequate cash to those that most need it. And that's going to limit the ability of the American economy to rebound.

You're going to see similar problems in Europe. There's nowhere close to a willingness of the Europeans as a whole to provide the kind of redistribution of wealth of debt that would be required to get the Italians, the Spaniards, the Portuguese growing again. So, the Germans are running very well domestically, the Danes, the Netherlands. But you don't see that in the south. You don't see that in Eastern Europe. The potential of existential crisis for the eurozone is real.

Finally, China. I've discussed on previous videos how, one, they were responsible for the initial cover up, but two, once they started focusing on the crisis, they did an extraordinary job, empowered by technology, surveillance on the ground, able to quarantine and prevent significant additional outbreaks. No, I don't trust their numbers, but I do trust the fact that their economy is seriously up to speed again, in a way, the Americans and Europeans are gonna have a much harder time.

What's interesting is that internationally, the Chinese are playing much less of a leadership role than they are domestically, now that they have the crisis under more or less wraps. They made big press in initially sending healthcare equipment, medical equipment and personnel to the Europeans and other countries. It's been relatively small. There hasn't been big follow through. It's mostly press. This is not the Americans in Indonesia after the tsunami. It's not anywhere close to what the Chinese are capable of doing, what these countries actually need. That is causing a fair amount of blowback. We're seeing it from German media institutions, from the French, from the UK and especially from African countries, because a lot of Africans have been treated so badly on the ground. In China as well, the Chinese haven't handled that well. I've heard from heads of international financial institutions that the Chinese are nowhere close to offering the kind of money and support that these countries desperately need.

The Americans and Europeans are going to be focused on their own crises, and that's going to be massively expensive for these countries. So, their willingness to provide international aid will be more constrained. While the Chinese are less constrained. Second largest economy in the world, not providing leadership, very little cash they're going to be willing to put to put up. Which means the developing world is going to be really on the back foot in three and six months time. And also, the idea that China is going to be suddenly replacing the United States, providing leadership, you saw in The Economist magazine this week, China winning out of coronavirus, well, it's clear that the Chinese economy is doing much better. Their growth this year, next year will look a lot better than the Americans, Europeans. They will be gaining on the Americans in terms of the gap in size of economy and impact of the economy. But in terms of providing international leadership, there I don't see the Chinese playing much of a role at all. And it's important not to get ahead of of ourselves on that one.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, for instance, which is shut out from COVAX due to US sanctions imposed on the Maduro regime.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power — following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars — in a bid to exert its superpower bonafides.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

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