Truth has been a casualty of the pandemic globally and the various Central Asian governments’ responses to the pandemic reflect both how far and how little their leaderships have progressed from the Chernobyl mentality of concealing the truth during the latter days of the Soviet Union.
The Kazakh government has shown relative transparency in communicating with citizens about virus data, even if the actual death toll is likely to be higher than reported. Uzbekistan’s seemingly much lower cases rates than in Kazakhstan and rapidly flattening curve, weeks before its neighbour, suggest that it has been less transparent, while its compliant media fails to hold it accountable.… Seguir leyendo »
After China violated Hong Kong’s legislative autonomy by imposing a new security law on the territory, the United States and its traditional allies did something remarkable — they agreed. But this display of solidarity was fleeting.
The US, UK, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand all issued critical statements. However, President Donald Trump then quickly announced the United States would protest China’s action by ending America’s special trade relationship with Hong Kong, whereas the EU rejected punitive economic measures.
Trump further vowed the US would ‘terminate’ its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the grounds that the agency has become a Chinese instrument.… Seguir leyendo »
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia already operate within a fractured region, with large migrant populations abroad, and assume varying degrees of responsibility for the region’s separatist entities – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorny Karabakh – whose long-term isolation makes them highly vulnerable to the pandemic.
All three South Caucasus states reported their first cases early – between February 26 and March 1 – and started responding shortly after. And the form and success of their response has been defined by the work each had put into developing their political, healthcare and economic institutions over the long term, and has put their ability to protect their citizens into stark relief.… Seguir leyendo »
COVID-19 responses across Africa built on lessons learned from combatting infectious diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, using World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines tailored to local demands.
A rapid and evidence-led response has managed the tensions between saving lives and preserving local culture – for instance between tradition and the need for rapid burials. Credible communication is key to building trust and many states set up COVID-19 national taskforces to co-ordinate responses from governments, health organization, business, and the security sector, aided by community support networks, faith-based and religious organisations.
The importance of the informal sector to national economies also led governments to allow a level of self-monitoring, while making sanitisers and other equipment available, and encouraging mutual responsibility on social distancing.… Seguir leyendo »
The demand for national leadership to unite a clearly passionate and divided United States could not be higher, but President Donald Trump is instead adopting tactics that are inflaming division and risk greater instability and violence.
The president’s demand that governors ‘dominate’ protesters was shored up by the use of tear gas by police to disperse lawful protesters outside the White House, and his decision to deploy US military troops across the United States all signal a dangerous embrace of law and order tactics that mimic the authoritarian leaders Trump has long admired.
But in a nation defined by a well-honed expectation of the right to civil disobedience and political protest, and an unparalleled embrace of individual freedoms, the president’s tactics could backfire, triggering an escalation of violence and furthering America’s domestic political and economic crisis.… Seguir leyendo »
Irrespective of geographical location, income per capita and political system, the gaps in countries’ systems to prevent and control infectious disease outbreaks are strikingly similar. Addressing these gaps is essential to combat COVID-19 – which looks likely to be a recurring challenge – and also presents an opportunity to make investments that simultaneously advance equity and well-being more broadly.
Access to quality healthcare, free at the point of use for everyone, has proven to be a game changer for countries’ ability to contain infectious disease outbreaks. A lack of universal health coverage (UHC) prevents some people – such as those who cannot afford to pay for services or are not covered by employers’ insurance schemes, or are undocumented migrants – from accessing testing and treatment services quickly.… Seguir leyendo »
Although there are plenty of signs that strongmen leaders have used the crisis to try to tighten their grip on power, the coronavirus has revealed the underlying vulnerabilities of autocracies rather than their strength. In contrast, democracies are showing their capacity for innovation and adaptation, as one would expect, and signs of renewal, as one would hope.
At first look, the situation is not positive for democracies. The countries worst-hit by COVID-19 as measured in deaths per capita are mostly democracies, including Britain, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United States. In most cases, erroneous or slow decision-making proved fatal when combined with stressed health systems and pockets of high social inequality.… Seguir leyendo »
Many countries are beginning to ease the lockdowns and re-open their economies. But, even if this process succeeds globally, most countries are facing a sharp increase in their current fiscal deficits and public debt. The IMF estimates advanced country fiscal deficits will average 11% of GDP in 2020, while debt to GDP ratios will rise from an average of 105% in 2019 to 122% in 2020.
In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, many governments focused on what maximum debt to GDP ratio would be ‘safe’ to protect them from loss of confidence in financial markets – although different considerations applied in the US as the dollar is the global reserve currency.… Seguir leyendo »
Two opposing narratives have emerged about COVID-19 and Africa. The first is that cases are doubling, infections are increasing, and an uncontrollable swell of COVID-19 cases and deaths will soon overtake healthcare systems across the continent.
The other says that the epidemic in Africa may actually be subdued and that the continent has likely avoided catastrophe due to early action to prevent imported cases, as well as a young population.
A new modelling study from the WHO Africa Regional Office predicts the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. This new study estimates 47 African countries will not have as many severe cases or deaths as the rest of the world, but these countries should still expect 190,000 deaths and five million additional hospitalizations within this first year.… Seguir leyendo »
The decision by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to create new national security legislation for Hong Kong has seen criticism erupt in parts of the Hong Kong community and internationally. The US has raised the stakes in response, saying it will no longer treat Hong Kong as ‘autonomous’.
Many critics have attacked the process set out by Beijing, arguing that any national security legislation should be considered by Hong Kong’s legislature. That was indeed the original intention when the Basic Law was promulgated in 1990 but, since an aborted attempt to introduce legislation in 2003 and consistent lobbying against reviving it, Beijing seems to have concluded an alternative approach is needed.… Seguir leyendo »
After almost a year and a half – and three elections – Benjamin Netanyahu, the grand magician of Israeli politics, managed to pull off another of his tricks to mobilise a majority of MKs to support a coalition government he will lead, in theory, for only the next 18 months. Unless he is found guilty in the corruption trial he faces.
Significantly, his personal victory will be detrimental to the future of the country’s democracy, the justice system in particular, good governance, and whatever slim chance may remain of a peace process leading to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Attributing Netanyahu’s success in forming a government to his vast experience, personal charm, unscrupulous manipulative nature, and limitless hunger for power provides only part of the answer.… Seguir leyendo »
India’s first wave of economic reforms were triggered by an economic crisis during which economic growth fell to just 1.1 per cent in 1991. With some estimates suggesting that India’s economy will contract by a staggering 45 per cent year-on-year contraction for the current quarter, there are some signs that the current crisis could trigger a change of direction in terms of economic management – though in which direction is much less clear.
Since Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014 there had been expectations – perhaps more from external observers than domestic commentators – that he would undertake the ambitious economic reforms that had eluded his predecessors.… Seguir leyendo »
Throughout history, humans have been afflicted by diseases transmitted from animals. The current coronavirus outbreak is the latest to have taken place in recent years from the 1998 Nipah virus in Malaysia to the 2014 Ebola virus across West Africa.
Over the past decade, the World Health Organization has declared four global health emergencies and research reveals outbreaks are becoming more common. How do diseases transmit from animals to humans and why are we seeing an increase around the world?
Tim Benton: The fundamental job of pathogens throughout evolution has been to maximize their chances of infecting susceptible organisms.
Pathogens can live in lots of different host organisms and so they are continually looking for an opportunity to jump from one species to another.… Seguir leyendo »
Tanzania’s COVID-19 containment measures have been markedly less strict than many neighbouring states, where lockdowns and travel restrictions have largely become the norm. Despite schools and universities being closed, a ban on mass public gatherings imposed, and citizens encouraged not to leave home for non-essential purposes, reports indicate daily life for the majority of working citizens has been minimally affected.
Government officials have emphasised the risk of starvation brought by lockdowns and the need to protect economic stability, with the deputy minister of health noting that ‘when you go for a total lockdown it means some will instead die of hunger.’… Seguir leyendo »
We don’t know yet exactly what Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron’s proposed temporary fund of €500 billion will be spent on, but it will likely include investment in green infrastructure, research and support for the hardest-hit sectors.
Although the money will flow through the EU budget, it is likely to be spent early in the next budget period from 2021 to 2027. There are different options for dealing with the debt load created by the fund – it could be paid back over a long period, or continuously rolled over. The latter option is preferable given the likely high demand for these safe assets in financial markets.… Seguir leyendo »
The great majority of countries have imposed partial or total travel bans on incoming non-residents since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30.
Yet at the time of declaring the emergency WHO said there was ‘no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade’.
On January 31, President Donald Trump announced a ban on people entering the United States from China. By the end of March about 150 countries had implemented travel restrictions.
Why does WHO offer such guidance?
WHO’s guidance on travel and trade derives from the International Health Regulations (IHR), agreed by WHO member states in 2005.… Seguir leyendo »
This article is not about the coronavirus. Or at least not directly. It’s about the elections, political processes and protests in Latin America and the Caribbean that only a few months ago seemed destined to shape many countries’ democratic futures. In Bolivia, Chile and the Dominican Republic, public health concerns over COVID-19 have forced the postponement of critical elections; in all three countries social and political upheaval preceded the delays.
In the best of circumstances elections serve as a safety valve for political and social tensions. What will their postponement mean as the countries feel the economic and social effects of the pandemic?… Seguir leyendo »
The way we grow, process and consume food — our food system — underpins human social and economic development for centuries. Innovations such as domesticating plants and animals, bread-making, the plough or the refrigerator have transformed what we grow, how we grow it, and how we prepare and consume food.
But our food system now faces its biggest ever challenge. How to feed a growing human population to avoid diet-related ill-health (through too much or too little food) but in a way that does not drive climate change or biodiversity loss.
Research on the future of our food systems has largely focused on incremental changes possible with existing technologies.… Seguir leyendo »
There is a legitimate fear that the use of contact tracing apps and other technologies to slow the spread of COVID-19 could tip the balance in the fight for privacy in the digital age, presenting a major challenge for policymakers, technology companies, and the human rights community.
The key issues are what level of intrusion into privacy is acceptable for rapidly developed data-driven responses to the COVID crisis, and who decides? In the short term, technical fixes are key to limiting the risks, but legal and other safeguards remain critical during the current crisis and beyond.
Under international law, such as Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and relevant regional treaties, interference with the right to privacy can only take place in limited circumstances where there is a legitimate aim.… Seguir leyendo »
Those who believe in cyclical theories of history argue the infamous stock market crash of 1929 signalled the failure of markets and paved the way for a bigger state, which then led to the New Deal in America and welfare states in Europe.
Fast forward to the 1970s and it was the turn of the state to overreach as big government proved unable to resolve intractable economic and social problems. This paved the way for the return of the markets via Reaganism and Thatcherism and an economic consensus that even centre-left social democrats ended up accepting.
Now fast forward again to where we are today.… Seguir leyendo »