Both within and across countries, the recovery from the pandemic is gradually bypassing the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. Covid is accentuating the current inequalities. It is doing greatest harm to precisely those people – and in precisely those places – that can least afford it. This does not bode well for socioeconomic stability anywhere. History proves that human misery on this scale inevitably transcends national boundaries. Unless governments all over the world soon identify – and act upon – the key priorities for financing a resilient recovery from Covid, sustainable progress is difficult. The private sector will also be need to be strategically involved into it.
The pandemic has shown central bankers and public debt managers (particularly in developing countries like India) that innovation and creativity are necessary to sustain borrowing opportunities in the system. India’s interest rate structure remains high by Western standards, and it is the small-scale sector that has been the most adversely affected by it. This sector is a key source of employment as well as exports, and it needs to explore innovative financing options via RBI, Cooperative banks, and NBFCs to bounce back.
Covid has abruptly disrupted the education of millions of Indian children. The well-heeled amongst them are continuing their studies from home, engaging in online classes via digital devices and broadband internet connections. But they constitute just a minority in our country. There is a need for focused policy measures, including the earliest possible vaccination of all school staff, to enable the return of children to offline classrooms. Parents also need to be convinced that doing so is in the best interests of their children. Of course, most parents have genuine and legitimate concerns. Covid is still not fully under control, and new variants are surfacing periodically. A single wrong move could nullify months of precautionary measures undertaken.
International collaboration is of the utmost importance. Governments and international bodies should prioritize the closing of obvious gaps in legal frameworks governing new scientific frontiers, such as artificial intelligence and genetic experimentation. Likewise, new technologies need to be regulated against malicious (or unintentionally harmful) use. This requires governments to collaborate with the private sector for harnessing the necessary expertise to fully understand their intricacies.
The private sector has a pivotal role to play in this context. Corporates should advocate for positive societal reform. This includes prioritizing the interests of historically disadvantaged communities, and lobbying to influence policy decisions within political, economic and social spheres. All this could be considered a part of their CSR activities. The government could amplify the impact of their efforts by setting standards, holding businesses accountable to certain minimum socioeconomic expectations, and disseminating effective examples.
The Covid pandemic is one of those exceptional events that affects every human being on the planet. The global economy will take time to emerge from its disastrous effects. However, it is only an inclusive recovery that will be sustainable. Every person on the planet has to be a part of it. Governments the world over need to put in place ambitious policy packages of socioeconomic reforms, including facilitating the transition of domestic labour and capital to high-growth sectors, lowering and rationalizing trade costs, and promoting environmentally-friendly investments. That is the only way to deliver humankind a green, resilient and inclusive recovery.