The COVID-19 pandemic will
reshape all our economic choices. Nations have made a crucial choice in
recent weeks, choosing human life over economic growth.
Governments including ours
have mandated lockdowns to slow the pandemic, relieve the pressure on
their hospitals and save lives.
Economics is about choices, a
study of ‘human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce
means’. Trade-offs are central to these choices.
On the one hand, there will
be massive economic costs.
On the other hand, updates
land in our phones on a minute-by-minute basis, invoking both our empathy
and our fear.
Our choice is obvious — human
life over economic growth.
really always choose to save lives?
For decades, we have chosen
profits and growth over human lives.
The World Health Organization
(WHO) estimates that 4.2 million lives are lost annually due to air
These deaths occur in
dispersed locations, through varying illnesses and outside our frenzied
social media feeds. Therefore, the choice is not as clear to us.
It is a choice between 4.2
million lives and the marginal returns from industries choosing polluting
vs. non-polluting technologies.
This is not a Luddite call to
replace our cars with carriages. Cleaner technologies are available, for
instance, through our IFAD programs, low-cost technologies are being
developed even for smallholder farmers.
lives is not something that is easily being done now
Social Distancing is hardly
viable for the 2% of the global population who are homeless or the 20% who
lack adequate housing.
Social distancing will also
take a disproportionate economic toll on the informal sector, employing up
to 60% of the working population globally and 90% in India.
The cure could trigger deep
poverty and a food security crisis, actually endangering more lives.
According to UNICEF, even
prior to COVID-19, diseases directly linked to lack of safe water killed
1,400 children under five every day, globally over half a million a year.