Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Bloomberg, the reason India is suffering their current Covid outbreak is they didn’t have enough government intervention.
Pandemic or Climate Change, Government Has a Crucial Role to Play
Poor countries can mitigate the impact of coming crises with good governance
By Akshat Rathi
4 May 2021, 20:40 GMT+10
I grew up in Maharashtra, which is one of the Indian states worst affected, and most of my family is still there. That’s made the last few weeks very hard. Every other day, there’s some grim news of a family friend or a relative falling victim to Covid-19 and no one can be sure how much devastation the current wave of infections will leave behind.
But a few things are already clear. The Indian government did not act on advice that its own scientific team provided in early March, according to a Reuters investigation. Instead the Bhartiya Janata Party, represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, organized political rallies in the state of West Bengal. It also allowed millions of Hindus to attend the weekslong Kumbh Mela religious festival. Even today, as countries from around the world have sent life-saving equipment and medicine, much of it appears to be sitting in the airport in New Delhi waiting to be distributed.
While limited resources and poor infrastructure are crippling India’s response at the peak of infections, better governance could have helped the country avoid the dire situation in the first place. “An individual can only go so far to protect themselves from something like Covid. People actually need to be supported by an enabling state,” says Rebecca Willis, a professor at the Lancaster Environment Centre. “The same is true for climate.”
The question of how much government intervention is needed frequently arises when it comes to tackling climate change. In some ways, the anti-lockdown and anti-masks protests are a variation on the same divide. “The big government/small government argument has been weaponized in politics, but it’s not very meaningful,” says Willis. Instead what you need is effective government or, as University College London economist Mariana Mazzucato puts it, mission-oriented government.
Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-04/pandemic-or-climate-change-government-has-a-crucial-role-to-play
Regarding Rathi’s suggestion that the government is not being supportive enough, it is worth noting some figures. Prime Minister Modi is considered a hardline fiscal conservative, yet during 2020 Modi allowed India’s debt to balloon from 74% of GDP to 90% of GDP. So it seems pretty harsh of the author to suggest that the Indian state has not been supportive enough, given that Modi has put at risk his entire legacy of economic reform, in an effort to help ordinary people afflicted with Covid.
Governments might have a magic money tree in author Akshat Rathi’s world, but back here in the real world extreme state debts and economic dysfunction have consequences, especially in poor countries. Just ask Venezuela.
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