Pandemic Socialism

By Nawal Khurram

The coronavirus pandemic sent ripples through the entire planet which has resulted in billions of people across the world being driven to the brink of poverty. As countries shut down their borders and trade routes were blocked, even the
most booming industries hardly managed to stay afloat, let alone small businesses. In hindsight, a similar trend can be observed in how different governments around the world responded to the health and economic crisis that unfolded consequently.

The unemployment rate during the pandemic outnumbered the one recorded during one of the worst economic crises—the Great Depression in 2008. After a few days into the pandemic, approximately thirty million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Subsequently, Congress announced plans to inject $2 trillion into the economy through a stimulus package. This covered the $1,200 cash handouts to people and subsidies and loans to businesses worth millions of

Pakistan, located right next to the epicenter of the virus, was successfully able to flatten the transmission rates without bringing its economy to a complete halt. This would have not been possible without the Pakistani government’s
intervention. The government provided financial support to the poor under its Ehsas Emergency Relief Package which amounted to $900 million. 12.5 million impoverished families were provided a direct cash relief package of $70 each.

Additionally, the government announced an economic relief package of Rs 1.2 trillion to help keep small businesses, the agricultural industry and farmers, and low-income laborers afloat. In almost all European countries, the governments subsidized lost incomes. The German government provided for 60-70% of its population at a time through
unemployment benefits, two million of which were private-sector employees. Moreover, in Denmark, Netherlands, and South Korea, the governments covered 75%-90% of salaries of laid-off employees. According to the Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo, the Pandemic has been a relic of World War 2 as it unleashed an unfathomable economic and humanitarian crisis. In order to counter the crisis, the government introduced a relief package of $1 trillion. This included direct cash transfers to citizens as well as cash payments to businesses.

The Pandemic brought giant corporations to their knees. World’s largest airlines like Lufthansa, Etihad, Air France, and forty others sought government assistance as the demand for air travel plummeted due to the virus. This made countries realize that in times of adversity, globalization quickly collapses. When news on the novel coronavirus first started to pour in, countries immediately evacuated their citizens from Wuhan, a central Chinese city where the virus first emerged. A ban was also levied on immigrants and refugees across the world.

The idea of a borderless Europe has become inconceivable today in the wake of a new deadlier variant of the virus and, more recently, Britain’s official departure from the EU. Globalization is the driving engine of neoliberal capitalism. It cashes
on the exploitation of cheap labor from, as the colonizers like to term it, the global south. However, with the closure of trade routes and blockage of supply chains the doom of capitalism became inevitable.

What probably most shook the whole world was the fact that while billions of people lost their incomes and were hardly able to fend for themselves and their families, billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon musk increased their accumulation
of wealth by trillions of dollars. As the world was struggling to confront the fact that we might lose more people to poverty and hunger than to the virus, the wealthy across the world went on an unbridled hoarding spree. Coronavirus sparked debates and made people question like never before wondering if neo-liberal capitalism is sustainable for our civilization. The climate experts have predicted that the next twenty years are our only chance to amend our ways of living as the threat of extinction of our species looms just over the horizon.

The article is intended to be purely informative and does not reflect the writer’s personal bias towards any political or economic theory.

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