Coronavirus: A Seven-Point Action Plan for G20

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On March 26, 2020, an extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit will take place to discuss global plans to tackle the public health and economic challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). The Leaders’ Summit will follow a virtual meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors that was held on March 23 and a virtual G20 Sherpa meeting to be held on March 25.

As anticipated, the G20 finance ministers did not issue a joint declaration after the call. Media reports suggest that no consensus was reached on releasing a joint declaration due to recent tensions between the US and China over trade issues and the origin of the coronavirus.[1]

The G20 Saudi secretariat only issued a press release stating that “G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors agreed to closely monitor the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact on markets and economic conditions and take further actions to support the economy during and after this phase. They also agreed to develop a joint G20 Action Plan in response to COVID-19, which will outline the individual and collective actions that G20 has taken and will be taking to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”[2]

The press statement provides no further information about what specific individual and collective policy actions would constitute the G20 Action Plan. The G20 finance ministers issued a somewhat similar joint statement (on March 6) promising “actions, including fiscal and monetary measures, as appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus, support the economy during this phase and maintain the resilience of the financial system.”[3] For more details on the G20 Action Plan, perhaps we may have to wait until the Leaders’ Summit taking place on Thursday.

More than bland statements, the world urgently needs is coordinated action plans (with concrete steps, resources required, deadlines, and accountabilities) to address the triple crisis — a health crisis, a real economy crisis, and a looming financial crisis triggered by unprecedented capital outflows and credit stress.

Apart from the immediate global health policy response to strengthen health infrastructure, well-coordinated economic policy actions are needed to restart the economy and protect the most vulnerable countries. Given the scare resources, a coordinated multilateral strategy would be mutually reinforcing and would create significant positive spillover effects for all countries. Hence, countries should initiate joint actions and seek greater international coordination in all policy areas to produce better outcomes.

The following are seven key issues for action that G20 could collectively undertake to address the public health crisis and the corresponding economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Enhance Medical Aid and Collaborations

First and foremost, given the transmission of coronavirus across six continents, G20 should ensure that the movement of essential medical supplies (such as masks, gloves, and other medical equipment) should not be restricted across borders and should be offered to all those countries that need them.

The export restrictions on essential medical supplies imposed by the EU and some national governments should be immediately removed as many countries lack the domestic production of medical supplies to deal with the pandemic. Such short-sighted export controls are obstructing global efforts by governments, foundations, and NGOs to send essential medical supplies to affected countries.

Further, the US, China, and Europe should jointly collaborate on many levels in developing and testing a vaccine against the coronavirus. Currently, there are no bilateral or multilateral collaborations to develop a vaccine or other treatments. Needless to add, the conduct of multiple testing programs across various jurisdictions enhances the success of vaccines.

Once a vaccine is approved and successfully launched, it should be offered to people around the world affordably, and regardless of economic or geostrategic considerations. Saving human lives is far more critical than seeking monopoly privileges or pursuing geostrategic goals.

The coronavirus pandemic has, once again, highlighted the need to provide substantial financial support to the WHO to meet the current and future health epidemics.

2. Financial Mobilization and Coordination

G20 should provide significant financial assistance through grants and concessional loans to the poor and developing countries that desperately need funds to augment their public health infrastructure and to revive the economy.

In this regard, G20 needs to adopt a multipronged approach and extend support to myriad international initiatives.

The IMF has made available $50 billion through its twin emergency financing facilities — the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) — to the poor and developing countries affected by the coronavirus.[4] Besides, the IMF has recently expressed its willingness to mobilize an additional $1 trillion to assist its member countries.

Both these initiatives by the IMF could be effective provided loans do not prescribe fiscal tightening measures and are not denied to member-countries (for instance, Iran or Venezuela) that may have political or strategic differences with some of the biggest shareholders of the Fund.

Since mobilizing $1 trillion may take considerable time in getting approval from its largest shareholders, the IMF could devote more resources to its twin emergency financing facilities in the near terms. On March 23, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, informed that as many as 80 member-countries are seeking help from the Fund.[5] Hence, $50 billion may not be adequate to meet the immediate financing needs of 80 countries.

Further, the funds under the RFI facility should be made available to countries at zero interest rates, with repayment over ten years. Some of the preconditions attached to securing financial support under the RFI should be relaxed for countries dealing with the global pandemic.

Apart from the IMF, financial support from regional and international financial institutions should be mobilized. For instance, the World Bank can play an essential role in reviving trade finance, as it did during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Norway has proposed to establish a coronavirus fund[6] at the United Nations to assist poor countries facing the virus epidemic, similar to Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund established in response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 by the UN. Such financing initiatives need to be welcomed by the G20 and international community.

Apart from resource mobilization, international coordination of financing initiatives is equally important. Ideally, the UN is well-placed to coordinate myriad financing initiatives, given its strong commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along with the active participation of poor and developing countries in the decision-making processes.

3. Extend US Dollar Swap Lines

The G20 should request the US to extend dollar swap lines to large emerging markets (such as Turkey, Argentina, and South Africa) that are facing a dollar funding squeeze. Currently, the US Federal Reserve has offered swap lines to just four EMEs: Singapore, South Korea, Mexico, and Brazil.

There are regional financing arrangements (RFAs) such as Chiang Mai Initiative, Arab Monetary Fund, BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, and Latin American Reserve Fund that have been established to provide financial support to countries experiencing financial difficulties. However, since most member-countries of the RFAs are also experiencing financial problems, large financial support from such arrangements may not be available in the present circumstances.

4. Coordinate Macroeconomic Policies

The G20 should take the lead in coordinating a wide range of macroeconomic policies to avoid the beggar-thy-neighbor policies, as it did so in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

Although most fiscal stimulus measures are likely to be targeted at sub-national and national levels by governments, G20 should task the Financial Stability Board (FSB) to explore a coordinated and synchronized global fiscal response that can mitigate the economic downturn and protect the most vulnerable economies.

Unlike advanced economies, most developing and emerging economies lack social safety nets that can serve as automatic fiscal stabilizers by boosting fiscal spending during economic downturns.

Special attention needs to be given to support households and small and medium enterprises badly hit by simultaneous supply and demand shocks.

5. Regulate Volatile Capital Flows

The G20 should pledge to do “whatever it takes” to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability. In particular, G20 leaders should strongly endorse the use of capital controls to stem rapid outflows currently experienced by several EMEs as panicked investors are dumping assets in exchange for the US dollar.

Capital outflows from the EMEs have exceeded $70 bn since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. The Institute of International Finance has noted that fund outflows from EMEs since late January “are already twice as large as in the global financial crisis and dwarf stress events such as the China devaluation scare of 2015 and the taper tantrum in 2014.”[7]

A sudden surge in capital outflows can trigger large depreciation of EM currencies, which in turn increases the domestic value of foreign currency debts and could trigger sovereign and corporate defaults. The foreign exchange interventions and liquidity provisions have their limitations, and therefore, policy actions are needed to regulate volatile capital flows.

A strong statement by G20 leaders endorsing capital controls would immensely help in removing the deeply-rooted stigma attached to capital controls. The G20 should task the FSB or the IMF to coordinate actions on capital controls. The G20 should also direct the IMF to update its 2012 institutional view that endorses capital controls only as a last resort and imposed selectively on capital inflows.

Besides, G20 leaders’ endorsement of other regulatory measures (such as a ban on short-selling, and enhanced surveillance of high-frequency trading) would encourage national regulators to undertake all necessary preventive measures to maintain market integrity.

6. Grant Substantial Debt Relief

The sudden stop in capital flows coupled with a sharp decline in commodity prices has further complicated external financing of many developing and emerging economies. Almost half of the EMEs are commodity exporters. Some countries are finding it difficult to service their foreign currency debt as their debt levels were unsustainable well before the coronavirus outbreak. In early March, Lebanon defaulted on its foreign currency debt. Argentina desperately needs substantial debt restructuring to avoid a sovereign default.

G20 should support substantial debt relief to all those countries that are facing a full-blown debt crisis. A moratorium on debt repayments by multilateral lenders and foreign creditors would enable countries to devote more resources to fight the pandemic.

7. Resolve Bilateral Disputes

This is the time for international solidarity, not for trade wars and sanctions. The G20 countries should resolve two major ongoing bilateral disputes — a trade war between the US and China; and an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The trade and oil price wars weaken international cooperation at a time when it is badly needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

At the very least, the G20 member-countries should hit the pause button on their bilateral trade and oil price disputes until the world fully recovers from the coronavirus and its economic effects.

Endnotes

[1] Patrick Wintour, “G20 finance ministers’ talks hampered by US-China standoff,” The Guardian, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/g20-finance-ministers-talk....

[2] Press Release, G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Virtual Meeting, March 23, 2020. Available at: https://g20.org/en/media/Documents/FMCBG_Extraordinary_Press%20Release.pdf.

[3] Statement on COVID-19, G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, March 6, 2020. Available at: https://g20.org/en/media/Documents/G20%20Statement%20on%20COVID-19%20-%2....

[4] IMF Makes Available $50 Billion to Help Address Coronavirus, Press Release, IMF, March 4, 2020. Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-avail....

[5] IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva’s Statement Following a G20 Ministerial Call on the Coronavirus Emergency, IMF, March 23, 2020. Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/23/pr2098-imf-managing-dire....

[6] Gwladys Fouche, “UN to create global coronavirus fund, Norway says,” Reuters, March 23, 20202. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-unitednations-norw....

[7] Sergi Lanau and Jonathan Fortun, “The Covid-19 Shock to EM Flows,” Economic Views, Institute of International Finance, March 17, 2020.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

2021: Year of Living Dangerously?

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan 5 2021 (IPS) - Goodbye 2020, but unfortunately, not good riddance, as we all have to live with its legacy. It has been a disastrous year for much of the world for various reasons, Elizabeth II’s annus horribilis. The crisis has exposed previously unacknowledged realities, including frailties and vulnerabilities.

For many countries, the tragedy is all the greater as some leaders had set national aspirations for 2020, suggested by the number’s association with perfect vision. But their failures are no reason to reject national projects. As Helen Keller, the deaf and blind author activist, noted a century ago, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”

After JFK’s assassination in November 1963 ended US opposition to Western intervention in Indonesia, President Sukarno warned his nation in August 1964 that it would be ‘living dangerously’, vivere pericoloso, in the year ahead. A year later, a bloody Western-backed military coup had deposed him, taking up to a million lives, with many more ruined.

Further economic slowdown
Lacklustre economic growth after the 2009 Great Recession has been worsened in recent years by growing international tensions largely associated with US-China relations, Brexit and slowing US and world growth although stock markets continued to bubble.

Economic growth has slowed unevenly, with Asia slowing less than Europe, Latin America and even the US. With effective early pre-emptive measures, much of East Asia began to recover before mid-2020. Meanwhile, most other economies slowed, although some picked up later, thanks to successful initial contagion containment as well as adequate relief and recovery measures.

International trade has been picking up rapidly, accelerating rebounds in heavily trading economies. Commodity prices, except for fossil fuels, have largely recovered, perhaps due to major financial investments by investment banks and hedge funds, buoying stock and commodity prices since late March.

Very low US, EU and Japanese interest rates have thus sustained asset market bubbles. Meanwhile, new arbitrage opportunities, largely involving emerging market economies, have strengthened developing countries’ foreign reserves and exchange rates, thus mitigating external debt burdens.

Unbiased virus, biased responses
The pandemic worsened poverty, hunger and vulnerability by squeezing jobs, livelihoods and earnings of hundreds of millions of families. As economic activities resumed, production, distribution and supply barriers, constrained fiscal means, reduced demand, debt, unemployment, as well as reduced and uncertain incomes and spending have become more pronounced.

While many governments initially provided some relief, these have generally been more modest and temporary in developing countries. Past budget deficits, debt, tax incentives and the need for good credit ratings have all been invoked to justify spending cuts and fiscal consolidation.

Meanwhile, pandemic relief funds have been abused by corporations, typically at the expense of less influential victims with more modest, vulnerable and precarious livelihoods. Many of the super-rich got even richer, with the US’s 651 billionaires making over US$1 trillion.

On the pretext of saving or making jobs, existing social, including job protection has been eroded. But despite hopes raised by vaccine development, the crisis is still far from over.

Don’t cry for me, says Argentina
Meanwhile, intellectual property blocks more affordable production for all. Pharmaceutical companies insist that without the exhorbitant monopoly profits from intellectual property, needed tests, treatments and vaccines would never be developed. Meanwhile, a proposed patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines has been blocked by the US and its rich allies at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Hence, mass vaccination is likely to be very uneven and limited by intellectual property, national strategic considerations (‘vaccine nationalism’), prohibitive costs, fiscal and other constraints. Already, the rich have booked up almost all early vaccine supplies.

The main challenge then is fiscal. Economic slowdowns have reduced tax revenues, requiring more domestic debt to increase spending needed to ensure the recessions do not become protracted depressions. Meanwhile, rising debt-to-GDP ratios and increased foreign debt have long constrained bolder fiscal efforts.

But despite the urgent need for more fiscal resources, we are told that if the richest are required to pay more taxes, even on windfall profits, they will have no incentive to ‘save’ the rest of us. Nevertheless, new wealth taxes have just passed in Argentina.

This time is different
As the pandemic economic impacts began to loom large, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva quickly offered debt relief for low-income countries on terms much better than the G20’s miserly proposal.

Unlike well-meaning debt-fixated researchers and campaigners, even new World Bank chief economist, erstwhile debt hawk Carmen Reinhart has urged, “First you worry about fighting the war, then you figure out how to pay for it”.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is concerned that “in the policies against the present pandemic, equity has not been a particularly noticeable priority… Instead, the focus has been on drastic control and sudden lockdowns…with little attention paid to labourers who lose their jobs or the many migrant workers, the poorest of the poor, who are kept hundreds of miles from their homes”.

COVID-19 may still bring major reforms, such as Roosevelt’s New Deal response to the Great Depression. But now, it seems likely to usher in a world where insecurity and unpredictability define the new normal. While professing to protect victims’ interests, ethno-populism blames ‘Others’ as the enemy responsible.

Still, many hope for a silver lining. Sen suggests that “a better society can emerge from the lockdowns”, as happened after World War Two, with greater welfare state provisioning and labour protections in much of the West and agrarian reforms in East Asia. But there is nothing to guarantee a better ‘new normal’.

Beyond neoliberalism?
For many, Joe Biden’s election to succeed Trump is being celebrated as a resurgent triumph for neoliberalism, enabling the US and the rest of the world to return to ‘business as usual’.

Incredibly, another Nobel laureate Michael Spence has even called for structural adjustment programme conditionalities for countries seeking help from the Bank and Fund, repudiating the Bank’s Growth Commission he once chaired, i.e., which found that seemingly fair, often well-intentioned conditionalities had resulted in “lost decades” of development.

But thankfully, there is widespread recognition that all is not well in the world neoliberalism and Western dominance created. Incredibly, Klaus Schwab, transnational capitalism’s high priest, has conceded, “the neoliberalist … approach centers on the notion that the market knows best, that the ‘business of business is business’…Those dogmatic beliefs have proved wrong”.

Instead, he advised, “We must move on from neoliberalism in the post-COVID era”, recognising: “Free-market fundamentalism has eroded worker rights and economic security, triggered a deregulatory race to the bottom and ruinous tax competition, and enabled the emergence of massive new global monopolies. Trade, taxation, and competition rules that reflect decades of neoliberal influence will now have to be revised”.

Will we ever learn?
The philosopher Santayana once warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Hegel had observed earlier that history repeats itself, to which Marx added, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Nevertheless, hope remains an incurable disease that keeps us all striving and struggling.

As FDR reminded his supporters, no progressive policies will come about simply by relying on the goodwill of those in authority. Instead, they will only be enacted and implemented thanks to popular pressure from below. As Ben Phillips has put it, “the story of 2021 has not yet been written: we can write it; we can right it”.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

A global health crisis? No, something far worse

Every evening we scour those graphs looking for signs that the epidemic is in retreat. New cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). People in hospital with COVID-19. Critical care beds with COVID-19 patients. Daily COVID-19 deaths in hospital. And then the final and bluntly worded “global death comparison”. Those with responsibility for leading us through this emergency have called it “a once in a century global health crisis”. This statement is incorrect on two grounds. First, because we cannot know what the rest of the century will bring. It is highly probable that this current pandemic will be neither the last nor the worst global health crisis of the present century. But second, and more importantly, this global calamity is not a crisis concerning health. It is a crisis about life itself. We have been tempted in recent years to assume the omnipotence of our species. The idea of the Anthropocene places human activity as the dominant influence on the future of life on our planet. Although this newest of geological eras is supposed to underline the harm our species is doing to fragile planetary systems, paradoxically it also asserts our supremacy. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has revealed the hubris of this view. Our species has many reasons to be self-critical about the effects of our way of life on planetary sustainability. But we are only one species among many, and we are certainly not a dominant influence when faced with a virus that can destroy life with such ease and facility.

If this pandemic is a crisis about life itself, what tentative conclusions might we draw from its effects so far on human society? Some clues will be found in Didier Fassin’s Life: A Critical User’s Manual (2018). Fassin studied medicine in Paris before turning to public health and anthropology. His starting point is the awareness we must all have for the unequal lives around us. That observation invites us to reflect on the value we attach to human life. In trying to answer that question, we somehow have to reconcile “life as a fact of nature and as a fact of experience”. We can view COVID-19 as a biological challenge to understand, treat, and prevent. But we should also understand it as a biographical event in the lives of millions of people. Fassin divides his inquiry into inequality into three parts. First, he identifies forms of life, by which he means “ways of being in the world”. The daily insecurities faced by so many of our fellow citizens draw attention to “the predicament of contemporary democracies, incapable of living up to the principles that constitute the foundation of their very existence”. Second, he discusses an ethics of life. He contrasts the rising legitimacy of those who have a biologically defined disease with the declining legitimacy of lives lived in a particular social setting (such as one of poverty). The physical has prevailed over the political. Fassin calls this ethical trend one of “biolegitimacy”—a legitimacy of life defined in biological terms. Life is reduced purely to its physical expression. There is no room for understanding the political conditions within which life exists. There is no possibility to mobilise public sentiment to defend threats to political lives, lives marked by, for example, inequality. SARS-CoV-2 preferentially afflicts those who are more vulnerable, less well rewarded, and more invisible to those with power. Third, Fassin focuses on the politics of life, the government of populations, and the effects of politics on human lives. He is interested in how the actions of political regimes differentially influence human lives and reinforce the unequal worth of some of those lives in society. The “politics of life”, he writes, “are always politics of inequality”.

So what must we say? We must say that it is our task to uncover the biographies of those who have lived and died with COVID-19. It is our task to resist the biologicalisation of this disease and instead to insist on a social and political critique of COVID-19. It is our task to understand what this disease means to the lives of those it has afflicted and to use that understanding not only to change our perspective on the world but also to change the world itself. As Fassin concludes, our “critique does not have to choose between militancy and lucidity”

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

América Latina y el Caribe ante la pandemia del COVID-19: efectos económicos y sociales

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El COVID-19 llegó en un momento en que la economía mundial se estaba desacelerando. Los niveles de deuda eran históricamente altos, y los salarios y la productividad se habían estancado en muchos países en desarrollo y desarrollados. La crisis sanitaria ha puesto de manifiesto la fragilidad del sistema globalizado y del modelo de desarrollo subyacente.. Después de la crisis, la comunidad mundial tendrá que afrontar el hecho de que la globalización no ha funcionado como se suponía y que es necesario reformarla profundamente.

Este Informe Especial es el primero de una serie que elaborará la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) sobre la evolución y los efectos de la pandemia del COVID-19 en América Latina y el Caribe. Sus análisis económicos y sociales se actualizarán a medida que surja información relevante. La Secretaria Ejecutiva de la CEPAL, Alicia Bárcena, dirige la elaboración de este Informe, con el apoyo técnico de la Oficina del Secretario Ejecutivo Adjunto, Mario Cimoli, las Divisiones sustantivas encargadas de los temas que aquí se tratan, y las sedes subregionales y oficinas nacionales de la CEPAL.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

COVID-19 Compounding Inequalities

KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Nov 17 2020 (IPS) - The United Nations’ renamed World Social Report 2020 (WSR 2020) argued that income inequality is rising in most developed countries, and some middle-income countries, including China, the world’s fastest growing economy in recent decades.

Inequality dimensions
While overall inter-country inequalities may have declined owing to the rapid growth of economies like China, India and East Asia, national inequalities have been growing for much of the world’s population, generating resentment.

In 2005, when the focus was on halving poverty, thus ignoring inequality, the UN drew attention to The Inequality Predicament. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that growing inequality within and between countries was jeopardizing achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.

“Leave no one behind” has become the rallying cry of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Reducing inequality within and among countries is now the tenth of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015.
Uneven and unequal economic growth over several decades has deepened the divides within and across countries. Thus, growing inequality and exclusion were highlighted in earlier WSRs on Inequality Matters, The Imperative of Inclusive Development and Promoting Inclusion Through Social Protection.

The UNDP’s Human Development Report 2019 (HDR 2019) drew attention to profound education and health inequalities. While disparities in ‘basic capabilities’ (e.g., primary education and life expectancy) are declining, inequalities in ‘enhanced capabilities’ (e.g., higher education) are growing.

Meanwhile, inequalities associated with social characteristics, e.g., ethnicity and gender, have been widening. The January 2020 Oxfam Davos report, Time to Care, highlighted wealth inequalities as the number of billionaires doubled over the last decade to 2,153 billionaires, owning more than the poorest 60% of 4.6 billion.

Drivers of inequalities
WSR 2020 shows that the wealthiest generally increased their income shares during 1990-2015. With large and growing disparities in public social provisioning, prospects for upward social mobility across generations have been declining.

HDR 2019 found that growing inequalities in human development “have little to do with rewarding effort, talent or entrepreneurial risk-taking”, but instead are “driven by factors deeply embedded in societies, economies and political structures”. “Far too often gender, ethnicity or parents’ wealth still determines a person’s place in society”.

Capture of the state by rich elites and commensurate declines in the bargaining power of working people have increased inequality. Real wage rises lag behind productivity growth as executive remuneration sky-rockets and regressive tax trends favour the rich and reduce public provisioning, e.g., healthcare.

Polarising megatrends
HDR 2019 identifies climate change and rapid technological innovation as two megatrends worsening inequalities, with the WSR adding urbanisation and international migration. Technical change not only supports progress, creating more meaningful new jobs, but also displaces workers and increases income inequalities.

Meanwhile, global warming is negatively impacting the lives of many, especially in the world’s poorest countries, worsening inequality. While climate action will cause job losses in carbon-intensive activities, energy saving and renewable energy are likely to increase net employment.

International migration benefits migrants, their countries of origin (due to remittances) and their host countries. But immigrant labour may increase host countries’ inequalities by taking ‘dangerous, dirty, depressed’ and low-skilled work, pushing down wages, especially for all unskilled, while professional migrations are ‘brain drains’, creating new inequalities and worsening existing ones.

COVID-19 and divergence
COVID-19 may worsen divergence among countries owing to its uneven economic impacts due to the different costs and efficacy of containment, relief and recovery measures, influenced by prior health and health care inequalities as well as state capabilities.

Low-income countries have poorer health conditions, weaker health care and social protection systems, as well as less administrative and institutional capacities, including pandemic preparedness and response capabilities. Hence, they are more vulnerable to contagion, while lacking the means to respond effectively.

Rising protectionism and escalating US-China trade tensions have aggravated challenges faced by developing countries which also face declining trade, aid, remittances, export prices and investments. ‘Vaccine nationalism’ will worsen their predicament.

COVID-19 and inequality
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many existing inequalities, and may push 71 million more people into extreme poverty in 2020, the first global rise since 1998, according to the 2020 UN SDGs Report.

As 55% of the world’s population do not have any social protection, lost incomes mean poverty and hunger for many more. Before COVID-19, 690 million were chronically food insecure, or hungry, while 113 million suffered severe acute food insecurity, or near starvation, mainly due to earlier shocks.

While those in the informal sector typically lack decent working conditions and social protection, most of the workforce do not have the means or ability to work from home during ‘stay in shelter lockdowns’ as most work is not readily done remotely, even by those with digital infrastructure.

Most have struggled to survive. Relief measures have not helped many vulnerable households, while recovery policies have not done much for liquidity-constrained small and micro-enterprises facing problems accessing capital, credit and liquidity, even in normal times.

Meanwhile, many of the world’s billionaires have done “extremely well” during the coronavirus pandemic, growing their already huge fortunes to a record US$10.2 trillion, according to a UBS-PwC report.

Widespread school closures are not only disrupting the education of the young, but also school feeding and child nutrition. Poor access to health services is making matters worse, as already weak health systems are further overstretched.

Unexpected crossroads
UN and Oxfam reports show that growing inequality is not inevitable. The world saw sustained growth with declining inequality in the Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s. With the neoliberal counter-revolution against development and Keynesian economics, government commitments to development and tackling inequalities have waned.

A 2020 Oxfam report notes, “only one in six countries … were spending enough on health, only a third of the global workforce had adequate social protection, and in more than 100 countries at least one in three workers had no labour protection … As a result, many have faced death and destitution, and inequality is increasing dramatically”.

Governments must adopt bold policies to radically reduce the gap between rich and poor and to avoid a K-shaped recovery. Internationally, improved multilateralism can help check vaccine nationalism, rising jingoist protectionism and debilitating neoliberal trade and investment deals.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

COVID-19: A Triple Whammy for Emerging Market and Developing Economies

Aunque la rápida propagación de la nueva pandemia de coronavirus (COVID-19) en los Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea ha captado la atención del mundo, no hay que perder de vista la pandemia y los problemas de salud y estabilidad económica y financiera que conlleva en el resto del mundo. A medida que la pandemia del COVID-19 avanza a nivel mundial, África y el sur de Asia están siendo testigos de un aumento en el número de nuevos casos últimamente, y estas regiones podrían convertirse pronto en sus próximos epicentros en las próximas semanas.

Los mercados emergentes y las economías en desarrollo se enfrentan a un triple golpe: salidas masivas de capital, una repentina interrupción de la actividad económica y el colapso de los precios de los productos básicos, además de una crisis de salud pública causada por COVID-19.

Por consiguiente, los efectos combinados de la pandemia sanitaria, los cierres, la volatilidad financiera y la disminución de los precios de los productos básicos son catastróficos para las EME y socavarían gravemente su capacidad de alcanzar los objetivos de desarrollo sostenible de las Naciones Unidas.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Coronavirus Leads to Nosedive in Remittances in Latin America

CARACAS, May 18 2020 (IPS) - Remittances that support millions of households in Latin America and the Caribbean have plunged as family members lose jobs and income in their host countries, with entire families sliding back into poverty, as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis and global economic recession.

The region will receive a projected 77.5 billion dollars in remittances this year, 19.3 percent less than the 96 billion dollars it received in 2019, according to provisional forecasts by the World Bank.

The damage “can be understood from the angle of consumption. Six million households, of the 30 million that receive remittances, will not have them this year, and another eight million will lose at least one month of that income,” expert Manuel Orozco told IPS from Washington, D.C.

Remittances in the region average 212 dollars per month, according to studies by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Remittances “represent 50 percent of the total income of the households that receive money from family members abroad, and increase their savings capacity to more than double that of the average population,” said Orozco, who heads the migration, remittances and development programme at the Inter-American Dialogue organisation.

“The projected fall, which would be the sharpest decline in recent history, is largely due to a fall in the wages and employment of migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable to loss of employment and wages during an economic crisis in a host country,” the World Bank stated in a report.

The cause of this was the shutdown of entire segments of economic activity in an attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which deprived migrants of their sources of employment and income, thus undermining their ability to send money back home to their families.

This is a global phenomenon, with remittances falling by at least 19.7 percent to 445 billion dollars in low- and middle-income countries as a whole: dropping by 23 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 22 percent in South Asia, 19.6 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, and 13 percent in East Asia and the Pacific.

Remittances “are a vital source of income for developing countries,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said Apr. 22, noting their role in alleviating poverty, improving nutrition, increasing spending on education and reducing child labour in disadvantaged households.

Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), listed the drop in remittances among the factors that will depress the region’s economy to an unprecedented level, -5.3 percent, with the risk of poverty climbing from 186 million to 214 million inhabitants: 33 percent of the total population.

An empty money transfer office in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is usually packed with migrants sending remittances home from the U.S. to their families in Central America. The city, dedicated to leisure and tourism, has been paralysed by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving thousands of migrant workers without employment or income. CREDIT: Western Union - Remittances that support millions of households in Latin America and the Caribbean have plunged as family members lose jobs and income in their host countries

Anxiety from the north

The countries that will be hardest hit are those of Central America and Haiti, according to Bárcena. Remittances make up between 30 and 39 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product (GDP), and last year accounted for 21.8 percent of Honduras’ GDP, 21.2 percent of El Salvador’s and 13.8 percent of Guatemala’s.

“We’re talking about fragile states, with collapsed health systems, weak or corrupt governments, and budgets that were already insufficient to meet people’s needs and are worse off now,” Victoria Gass of the U.S. division of Oxfam’s anti-poverty coalition told IPS from New York.

Orozco stressed that it will affect the consumption capacity of 20 percent of Central Americans, who will be forced to use their savings, on average a quarter of all remittances, for immediate expenses such as buying food and medicine.

In El Salvador, for example, Gabriela Pleitez, 35, who lives in the capital, no longer receives the 200 dollars a month sent to her by her mother, a dental assistant, and her brother, a taxi driver, who live in Los Angeles, California and found themselves suddenly unemployed.

Gabriela completed the 400 dollars she needed to get by with unsteady work as a real estate agent or by selling clothes and beauty products. Now she takes in some money as an assistant at a stand that sells traditional foods.

“I don’t buy bread anymore, and I’m eating less. If you manage to get 10 dollars you have to think carefully what to spend it on. If I don’t pay the water bill, they will cut it off. My landlord won’t charge me rent for three months, in accordance with a government decree, but then he will want me to leave,” she told IPS.

Another Salvadoran, Rosa Ramírez, a 56-year-old mother and grandmother still in charge of an adult daughter and four children, said the pandemic dealt her small flower arrangement business a death blow. “The situation was difficult before, and now, with homes and businesses closed, I’m out of work,” the resident of Zacatecoluca, in the central department of La Paz, told IPS.

Her lifeline is her son Luis, 27, who found a job in 2018 as a carpenter in Stafford, Virginia, in the U.S. southeast, after fleeing from gangs who demanded he make payments to keep them from attacking his then three-year-old daughter.

Luis used to send her between 350 and 400 dollars a month “to pay bills, the rent, and medicine, because I’ve had high blood pressure for years and I can’t go without my medicine,” Rosa said. But now her son has only sent her half that because “he is working fewer hours, one day he gets a job and the next he doesn’t.”

Rosa’s daughter received a temporary 300 dollar aid package provided by the government for the most vulnerable, and was able to cover basic expenses. But Rosa is now anxious about how she will make ends meet. Her daughter, Gabriela, would like to emigrate to the United States, but she has been told that the legal process could take eight years.

Another hard-hit country is Mexico, where 42 percent of the population of 130 million lives in poverty. In 2019, 36 billion dollars in remittances came in, mostly from the 37 million people of Mexican origin living in the United States.

Seven million households received remittances in 2019, but this year 1.7 million of those households will not receive them, Orozco calculated, due to the wave of unemployment that is hitting the U.S.

Intra-regional migration in the South

South America has a more even spread of migration that provides it with remittances, between North America, Spain and other European countries, and the sub-region itself, greatly increased by the millions of Venezuelans who fled to neighbouring countries in the last six years due to the economic, political and humanitarian calamity in their country.

This is the case, for example, of 26-year-old Laura (who preferred not to give her last name), who works in a veterinary clinic in Lima, “which has practically been left without clients due to the lockdown ordered by the Peruvian government. My husband, who used to do various jobs, is not bringing in an income either,” she told IPS from the Peruvian capital.

Laura regularly sent 100 dollars a month to her mother, a widow raising two teenage children on the meager salary (equivalent to five dollars a month) of a school teacher in Barquisimeto, a city in central-western Venezuela.

With each remittance, her mother “could buy some medicine, some meat, milk and eggs to complete the CLAP (the acronym for the bag of basic foodstuffs that the government delivers monthly at subsidised prices to poor families), but now I can’t send her almost anything, we’re just trying to scrape by in Lima,” said Laura.

Of the Venezuelans working in Peru, 46 percent were street vendors, 15 percent were employed in shops and six percent worked in restaurants – activities that have all faced restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research by Cécile Blouin of the Pontifical Catholic University in Lima.

In the last five years, 1.6 million Venezuelans have migrated to Colombia, 880,000 to Peru, 385,000 to Ecuador, 370,000 to Chile, 250,000 to Brazil and 145,000 to Argentina, according to a platform of United Nations agencies and NGOs monitoring the phenomenon.

The Venezuelan diaspora was added to more traditional migration flows, such as that of Paraguayans in Argentina: 550,000 migrants who sent home some 70 million dollars in 2019, a figure that was already declining due to exchange controls in Buenos Aires.

One third of the 1.3 billion dollars that Bolivia received in remittances in 2019 came from Bolivian migrants in Argentina, Brazil and Chile, but the figure has dropped since March with the measures put in place in the attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In Peru, which has three million citizens living abroad, a quarter of the 3.3 billion dollars the country received in remittances in 2019 came from the 350,000 Peruvians living in Argentina and the 250,000 in Chile.

Until this global upheaval, remittances were counter-cyclical: workers sent more money to their families when their home countries were experiencing crisis and hardship, which this time they have not been able to do because the pandemic and recession have affected all countries.

But there is some hope for the future. According to the International Monetary Fund, after falling -3.0 percent in 2020, the world economy will grow 5.8 percent in 2021 (Latin America 3.4 percent) and remittances will also increase at a similar rate. In low- and middle-income countries they will total 470 billion dollars.

But for millions of Latin American families, like those of Gabriela and Rosa in El Salvador or Laura in Venezuela, that’s too long a wait.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Covid-19 en la economía mundial: impulso y retroceso

Esta nota pretende contrastar lo que la pandemia COVID-19 ha significado en términos económicos y sociales y el patrón que puede dar para un cambio en las relaciones económicas. La adopción de nuevas tecnologías en el contexto del proteccionismo y las políticas nacionalistas ha cobrado impulso. Las diferentes realidades a las que se enfrentan los países y sectores de bajos y altos ingresos dan lugar a respuestas y consecuencias diferentes. Las nuevas proyecciones en las que todas las economías se contraen, mientras China se expande, serán una fuente de conflicto entre Oriente y Occidente. El hecho de que quede una economía que tire del crecimiento económico mundial indica que las relaciones económicas internacionales se dirigirán hacia el Este.

Como se anticipó (http://www.obela.org/analisis/covid19-el-comienzo-del-efecto-domino) las previsiones de crecimiento de la economía mundial a principios de año eran optimistas. A finales de junio, el crecimiento mundial tiene una proyección anual de -4.9% (FMI) -5.2% (Banco Mundial) y -6% (OCDE). En el peor de los casos, estas dos últimas organizaciones prevén contracciones de -8 y -7.7%, respectivamente. El Fondo Monetario Internacional prevé que los Estados Unidos se contraigan en un -8.0% mientras que China observará un crecimiento del 1.0%. La Zona Euro y América Latina se contraerán en -10.2 y -9.4%, respectivamente. Según el presidente del Banco Mundial, Malpass, el año 2020 es el peor en términos de crecimiento desde la crisis de 1929 y posiblemente desde la larga depresión de 1872.

El impacto en la dinámica de crecimiento ha sido mundial. Sin embargo, la experiencia de la pandemia en las economías emergentes dista mucho de la de las economías avanzadas. La cuestión es por qué los gobiernos con mayor capacidad fiscal y monetaria para aplicar políticas anticíclicas tienen resultados de crecimiento similares. Una hipótesis es que se enfrentan a choques simultáneos de oferta y demanda que anulan los esfuerzos expansionistas de los gobiernos.

La diferencia en la estructura del mercado laboral entre las economías avanzadas y las emergentes es evidente. Las economías desarrolladas tienen mercados de trabajo formales con un margen informal más reducido. Las economías emergentes tienen altos niveles de informalidad que están estrictamente relacionados con mercados legales pequeños y precarios. Los altos niveles de informalidad están estrechamente relacionados con la baja capacidad tributaria de los gobiernos de esos países. Esta situación genera una serie de problemas, como la falta de acceso a la atención médica universal o al seguro de desempleo. Son inexistentes en las economías emergentes que, en las condiciones actuales, resultan ser un factor anticíclico fundamental para contener la pérdida de ingresos derivada de los efectos nocivos de la pandemia.

El patrón de consumo es otro aspecto en el que existen marcadas diferencias, tanto en términos de poder adquisitivo como en la forma en que se realizan las compras. Los sectores de mayores ingresos observan una explosión en el uso de las compras en línea, incluido el supermercado, que permite a los individuos permanecer confinados. El instrumento de pago es la tarjeta de crédito. Los sectores de menores ingresos compran en mercados, que son polos de contagio en el mundo, y pagan en efectivo. Los sectores de altos ingresos viajan en vehículos privado, mientras que la población de bajos ingresos viaja en transporte público, que es ahora otro polo de infección.

Mientras que en las economías avanzadas la aplicación de nuevas tecnologías permite la transición a nuevas formas de consumo, los ingresos de subsistencia son una característica dominante en las economías emergentes. Ante la falta de actividades económicas, la pérdida de ingresos y de empleo, no hay más remedio que buscar ingresos de cualquier manera, con exposición a la pandemia. En cuanto a la producción y los servicios, se ha reforzado la robotización, lo que permite el distanciamiento social. Este cambio tecnológico se produce en mayor medida en las economías avanzadas, pero se producirá más pronto que tarde en los países emergentes, lo que agravará el desempleo oficial.

La pandemia está empezando a generar un retroceso en cuanto a los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODM). Las proyecciones apuntan a un aumento de la pobreza, la desigualdad empeorará y las restricciones al uso de energía de combustibles fósiles disminuirán para fomentar el crecimiento económico a expensas del medio ambiente y el cambio climático. Los retos son generar un renacimiento económico que promueva el empleo, la agricultura sostenible, la reducción de las cadenas de valor mundiales, el aumento del uso de la energía renovable y el descubrimiento de una vacuna y un tratamiento que sean universales y gratuitos.

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Covid-19 in the world economy: momentum and retreat

This note aims to contrast what the COVID-19 pandemic has meant in economic and social terms and the pattern it may give for a change in economic relations. The adoption of new technologies in the context of protectionism and nationalist policies has gained momentum. The different realities faced by low- and high-income countries and sectors lead to different responses and consequences. The new projections where all economies contract while China expands will be a source of conflict between East and West. The fact that there is one remaining economy that pulls the world economic growth indicates that international economic relations will veer east.

As anticipated (http://www.obela.org/en-analisis/covid19-the-beginning-of-the-domino-effect), growth forecasts for the world economy at the beginning of the year were optimistic. At the end of June, the world output has a yearly projection of -4.9% (IMF) -5.2% (World Bank) and -6% (OECD). In worst-case scenarios, the latter two organizations foresee contractions of -8 and -7.7%, respectively. The International Monetary Fund anticipates that the United States will contract by -8.0% while China will observe a growth of 1.0%. The Euro Zone and Latin America are to contract by -10.2 and -9.4%, respectively. According to World Bank president Malpass, the year 2020 is the worst in terms of growth since the 1929 crisis and possibly since the 1872 Long Depression.

The impact on growth dynamics has been global. The experience of the pandemic in emerging economies, however, is far from that of advanced economies. The question is why governments with higher fiscal and monetary capacity to conduct countercyclical policies have similar growth results. One hypothesis is that they face simultaneous supply and demand shocks that cancel out the expansionary efforts of governments.

The difference in the structure of the labour market between advanced and emerging economies is evident. Developed economies have formal labour markets with a smaller informal edge. Emerging economies have high levels of informality that are strictly related to small and precarious legal markets. High levels of informality are closely related to the low taxing capacity of the governments of these countries. This situation generates a series of problems, such as the lack of access to universal health care or unemployment insurance. They are non-existent in emerging economies, which, under present conditions, prove to be a fundamental countercyclical factor in containing the loss of income resulting from the harmful effects of the pandemic.

The pattern of consumption is another aspect where there are marked differences, in terms of purchasing power and in the way purchases happen. Higher-income sectors observe an explosion in the use of online shopping, including the supermarket, which allows individuals to remain confined. The payment instrument is the credit card. Lower-income sectors buy in markets, that are poles of contagion in the world, and they pay in cash. High-income segments travel privately, while the low-income population travels by public transport, which is now another pole of infection.

While in advanced economies, the implementation of new technologies allows the transition to new forms of consumption, subsistence income is a dominant feature in emerging economies. In the face of the lack of economic activities, loss of income and employment, there is no choice but to seek revenue in any way with exposure to the pandemic. For production and services, there is a strengthening of robotization, which allows for social distancing. This technological change occurs to a greater extent in advanced economies, but will happen sooner rather than later in emerging countries, aggravating formal unemployment.

The pandemic is beginning to generate a setback in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Projections are for an increase in poverty, inequality will worsen, and restrictions on fossil fuel energy use will diminish to foster economic growth at the expense of the environment and climate change. The challenges are to generate an economic revival that promotes employment, sustainable agriculture, the reduction of global value chains, the increased use of renewable energy, and the discovery of a vaccine and treatment that are universal and free of charge.

 

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Crisis económica

Covid-19: el comienzo del efecto dominó

Los efectos del COVID-19 en la economía real se comienzan a materializar alrededor del mundo. Ya en la segunda mitad de marzo se dieron los primero síntomas del deterioro de la confianza e incertidumbre en la economía cuando en el sector financiero los índices de bolsa de los principales países cayeron a mínimos durante el año. En esta nota se presentan indicadores tanto en el sector laboral como en la industria y servicios en EEUU y algunas de las economías del G20 para los cuales hay datos disponibles. La situación que inevitablemente se verá para la mayoría de los países en el mundo será: caída del producto, desempleo a pesar de los esfuerzos de las autoridades económicas. Esta vez con un impacto generalizado para todos los países, sectores y con un riesgo directo para el ser humano.

En EEUU el indicador de las Solicitudes Nuevas de Seguro por Desempleo (SND) que proporciona el Departamento del Trabajo del EEUU con una periodicidad semanal nos deja ver las consecuencias en su economía por el paro de actividades para tratar de contener los efectos del COVID-19. En la siguiente gráfica se muestran los datos para lo que va del año. Desde la segunda semana de marzo hubo un incremento en las SND aunque no estaba lejos de la media del año de 218,000. Fue hasta la tercera semana de marzo que hubo un salto en las SND a 3,307,000; en la cuarta semana 6,867,000 y el último dato disponible fue de 6,606,0001. En las últimas 4 semanas las SND suman 17 millones, de ese tamaño es el impacto inicial en el mercado laboral y el número de personas que han quedado desempleadas. Los principales estados que solicitan un seguro por desempleo son: California, Nueva York, Michigan, Florida y Georgia, los cuales están entre los que más casos confirmados de contagio hay en EEUU.

El 3 de abril la Oficina de Estadísticas Laborales (BLS por sus siglas en inglés) publicó el informe de la situación laboral2 para el mes de marzo en el cual se estima que la tasa de desempleo que pasó de 3.5 a 4.4% de febrero a marzo. El número de personas desempleadas pasó de 1.4 a 7.1 millones, aunque con las cifras que ofrece el SND se puede afirmar que este número sin duda crecerá. El sector servicios es el más afectado, principalmente en actividades recreativas, servicios de comida y bares. En menor medida se vieron afectados: servicios profesionales y de negocios; comercio al por menor y la construcción. Tomando en cuenta la velocidad con la cual han parado actividades, la probable quiebra de negocios y empresas, la recuperación de los empleos perdidos difícilmente se logrará alcanzar en su totalidad.

Otro indicador que está disponible para una serie de economías es el Índice de Gerentes de Compras (PMI por sus siglas en inglés) que publica el IHS Markit. Dicho índice nos indica la situación de diversos sectores de forma adelantada a indicadores macroeconómicos tradicionales. Existen tres niveles principales para el PMI: el manufacturero, el de servicios y el compuesto. En la siguiente gráfica se muestra el PMI compuesto para el mes de marzo, así como la variación que tuvo el índice del mes de febrero a marzo del presente año para una serie de economías. Cabe mencionar que un nivel por debajo del 50 representa una contracción, el cual es el caso para todas las economías presentadas. Italia, Francia y Reino Unido son las que presentaron las mayores caídas en este indicador. Al interior, el PMI manufacturero tuvo caídas, aunque estas fueron relativamente menores a las presentadas en el PMI de servicios en todas las economías.

Se observa que el único país con un mejoramiento del PMI compuesto en marzo fue China el cual llegó a un nivel de 27.5 en febrero y tuvo una recuperación en marzo que alcanzó un nivel de 46.7, es decir, aunque tuvo una mejora con respecto al mes previo, sigue en un terreno de contractivo. El efecto dominó ya comenzó y ahora la situación que se dio en febrero en China se presenta en el resto de las economías en marzo. Al respecto se debe tener en cuenta: el impacto en las cadenas globales de valor, por un lado, y el propio efecto del cierre de negocios y la paralización de la actividad económica por la propagación del COVID-19 el cual explica el impacto en el PMI en el sector servicios, que es peor que el de la manufactura.

Si se toma como referencia el caso de los EEUU y las consecuencias en el sector laboral y desempleo que ya se observan en dicho país, se puede inferir una situación similar para el resto del mundo en los próximos meses cuando se den a conocer cifras oficiales. La velocidad de la propagación del COVID-19 ha tenido efectos desde el sector financiero de los cuales hemos sido testigos y ahora vemos en el sector real. La primera ficha cayó hace unos meses. El efecto, alcance y horizonte de normalización de toda actividad parecen estar lejos y son inciertos. La diferencia de la crisis del COVID-19 con las vividas en las últimas décadas es el grado de penetración, pues esta vez se abarcan todos los sectores y niveles socioeconómicos alrededor del mundo. Mientras no se encuentre una cura, estamos ante una crisis que puede tener consecuencias no vistas desde la Gran Depresión de 1929 según declaraciones de la directora del FMI.

1 https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

2 https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Covid-19: the beginning of the domino effect

The effects of COVID-19 on the real economy are beginning to materialize around the world. Starting in the second half of March, the first signs of the deterioration of confidence and uncertainty occurred with the world's major stock market indices falling to multi-year lows; for example, the Dow Jones dropped to the 2016 level, the Frankfurt DAX to 2012, and so on. This note presents labour, industry, and services sector indicators for the G7 and BRICS economies. The same situation is reflected in the rest of the world, with a drop in output and international trade and massive unemployment despite the efforts of economic authorities to inject liquidity. The massive injections of cash by the central banks of the US, UK, European Union, and Japan are helping banks to invest that money in the stock markets and thus try to stabilise them. Meanwhile, the Chinese stock market remains stable.

The weekly Unemployment Insurance Claims (SND) indicator from the US Department of Labor shows that historically the levels are around 300,000 unemployed people with insurance. This figure dropped to 218,000 during 2019 and ended in the second week of March when there was a slight increase. In the third week of March 2020, unemployment insurance claims increased 15-fold to 3,307,000; in the fourth week, 6,867,000; and the last available data from the first week of April was 6,606,0001; with a record 17 million people unemployed in three weeks. California, New York, Michigan, Florida, and Georgia are the states with the most confirmed cases and the same ones with the most unemployment insurance claims. As the number of states with higher case volumes expands, those claims will grow by business closures.

The service sector is the most affected, mainly in recreational activities and in food and bar services. To a lesser extent, professional and business services are affected, as well as retail trade and construction. Given the speed with which activities have come to a standstill and the likely bankruptcy of small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises, there is no prompt recovery of the jobs lost. It will be a slow recovery giving the economic crisis a U-shape or, in the worst-case, L-scenario. It will not have a V-shape, with a rebound, unlike 2009. The difference between the U and L is the period the economy will remain stagnant. During that time, new economic activities take place with a complete shift of the energy matrix from oil to clean energy.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) published by the IHS Markit indicates the expectation of the situation in various economic sectors ahead of traditional macroeconomic indicators. There are three primary levels: manufacturing, services, and composite. The graph shows the composite PMI of the G7 countries plus the BRICS, for March, and the variation from February to March of this year. A level below 50 represents a contraction. Evidence shows it is the case for all economies presented, with Italy, France, and the United Kingdom observing the most significant drops. The fall in the services PMI is more significant than those shown in the manufacturing PMI.

The only country with a V-shaped economic crisis was China. It bounced back from 27.5 in February to 46.7 in March. The global domino effect began in February in China and spread to the rest in March. What precipitated the domino effect was the global value chains that have manufacturing in China as their starting point, closed in January and February. Then there is the powerful effect of the spread of COVID-19. The closure of businesses and the paralysis of economic activity in the world explains the worse impact on the PMI of the service sector.

The difference between the COVID-19 crisis and that of 2008 is the degree of penetration since it covers all sectors and socio-economic levels around the world. In a context of a recessionary world economy that was pointing downwards, productive paralysis unleashed. The dangerous thing is that until there is a cure and it becomes massive, the crisis may have consequences not seen since the Great Depression of 1929, according to statements by the managing director of the IMF. Meanwhile, with the epidemic under control, China recovers through internal value chains with a strong role of the state in the economy.

1 https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Dimensionar los efectosdel COVID-19 para pensaren la reactivación

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La pandemia del COVID-19 impactó América Latina y el Caribe en un momento de debilidad de su economía y de vulnerabilidad macroeconómica. En el decenio posterior a la crisis financiera mundial (2010-2019), la tasa de crecimiento del PIB regional disminuyó del 6% al 0,2%. A medida que la pandemia se propaga en la región, su caracterización como crisis sanitaria, económica y social es cada vez más evidente.

El objetivo de este segundo Informe Especial de la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) es dimensionar los efectos económicos de la pandemia en el corto y mediano plazo. Para el corto plazo, es decir en el curso de 2020, se presentan estimaciones de la dinámica de la producción y el empleo con base en la información disponible al 17 de abril de 2020, que abarca todas las subregiones de América Latina y el Caribe y muchas de sus economías.

Dimensionar la caída de la actividad económica permite comenzar a determinar la magnitud del esfuerzo para un regreso a la normalidad. Pero ese regreso no será y no debe ser una vuelta a la situación existente antes de la pandemia. La visión de mediano plazo con la que concluye este Informe ilustra los cambios estructurales en la organización de la actividad productiva que están en proceso y que se intensificarán.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El COVID-19 y el mundo del trabajo

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El Observatorio de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo estima, en este infome, que la pandemia ocasionada por el COVID-19 se ha acelerado aún más en términos de intensidad y ampliación de su alcance a nivel mundial. Las medidas de paralización total o parcial ya afectan a casi 2,700 millones de trabajadores, es decir: a alrededor del 81% de la fuerza de trabajo mundial.

En las últimas dos semanas, la pandemia ocasionada por el COVID-19 se ha intensificado y ampliado a escala mundial; las repercusiones en la salud pública son enormes, y las economías y los mercados de trabajo están sufriendo perturbaciones sin precedentes. Es la peor crisis mundial desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Desde la evaluación preliminar de la OIT del 18 de marzo, las infecciones mundiales por el COVID-19 se han multiplicado por más de seis, y el 3 de abril de 2020 el recuento se sitúa en 1,030,628; otras 47,600 personas han perdido la vida, con lo que el total de fallecimientos asciende a 54,137 . A fin de evitar resultados catastróficos para los sistemas nacionales de salud y reducir al mínimo la pérdida de vidas, muchos países han comenzado a aplicar medidas de distanciación social para así frenar la propagación del virus.

En la situación actual, las empresas de diversos sectores económicos, en especial las empresas más pequeñas, se enfrentan a pérdidas catastróficas que amenazan su funcionamiento y solvencia, y millones de trabajadores están expuestos a la pérdida de ingresos y al despido.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El coronavirus prueba que la sociedad existe

Tuvo que llegar una terrible pandemia para decirnos que la sociedad existe. Que somos seres humanos, de carne y hueso, y que nos necesitamos los unos a los otros. El coronavirus nos exige amor y solidaridad. Hoy rechazamos los comportamientos egoístas, los que especulan con el alcohol gel y las mascarillas de protección. Y, al mismo tiempo, aplaudimos la dedicación incansable de los trabajadores de la salud que, más allá de su vida personal, se entregan por entero en ayuda del próximo.

El coronavirus ha tenido el mérito de despertarnos de esa pesadilla que instaló la Primera Ministra de Gran Bretaña, Margaret Thatcher, cuando afirmaba, en pleno auge de su carrera política: “La sociedad no existe, solo existen hombres y mujeres individuales”.

En 1980, la Sra. Thatcher, y luego Ronald Reagan, inspirados en los economistas Hayek y Milton Friedman, impulsaron el modelo del sálvese quien pueda en sus países -el neoliberalismo-, que se extendió al mundo entero. Incluso antes, con Pinochet, el modelo neoliberal se había impuesto en Chile a sangre y fuego y, posteriormente, ya en democracia, fue asumido plenamente por la mayoría de los políticos y economistas chilenos.

En los últimos 40 años el neoliberalismo ha vivido su mayor gloria, muy especialmente en nuestro país. Ha convertido a los seres humanos en individuos egoístas, que luchan unos contra los otros. No vivimos una economía de mercado, sino una sociedad de mercado, en que los individuos, al igual que las empresas, compiten salvajemente para enriquecerse, consumir y/o alcanzar posiciones de poder.

Negar la sociedad, dudar que necesitamos a quienes nos rodean es negar que somos sujetos sociales, parte de una comunidad con la que compartimos, con la que sufrimos, con la que vivimos. Y, precisamente, el coronavirus lo ha puesto en evidencia.

Hoy día el miedo al virus recorre pobres y ricos, porque la muralla que nos separaba ha sido derribada por la pandemia. Y, para enfrentar el virus no hay más alternativa que enfrentarlo unidos. Aunque estamos lejos de reducir las diferencias de clases, se requiere solidaridad y reglas comunes de comportamiento, para que las personas puedan sobrevivir.

El coronavirus entrega también una lección a clase política y a ese Estado mínimo que se construyó en Chile y el mundo en las últimas décadas. La vida y no el crecimiento económico siempre debieran estar en el centro de nuestras preocupaciones. Por ello, aunque existe crecimiento, las desigualdades y abusos ponen en cuestión la fragilidad de la sociedad y no sólo en salud, sino en protección social, en general. En efecto, el coronavirus nos enferma a todos por igual y por tanto resulta inútil un sistema de salud que diferencia entre pobres y ricos.

En cierta forma, el coronavirus nos ha igualado un poco y hace justicia frente a las injusticias del modelo económico dominante. Ahí están las iniciativas populares que fortalecen nuestra resistencia ante esta la pandemia. Allí está el aplauso diario a quienes hoy están en la primera línea desafiando la infección y el agotamiento. Están también las iniciativas de apoyo mutuo entre vecinos, especialmente aquellas que tratan de ayudar a las personas mayores. La solidaridad ha crecido, porque frente a la tardanza de ciertas decisiones gubernamentales, la ciudadanía es la que toma decisiones en los barrios y municipios

Con la pandemia, y antes con la rebelión social del 18 de octubre, ha quedado en evidencia en nuestro país que jóvenes, mujeres y hombres se sienten parte de un colectivo más amplio, se piensan como seres sociales y políticos, dispuesto a la colaboración. Se sienten parte de la sociedad. Rechazan el individualismo que promueven el Estado mínimo y el modelo económico en que empresas, bancos y bolsas de comercio, apoyados por los medios de comunicación agobian nuestra existencia con la competencia y el dinero.

Son tiempos de solidaridad. Tiempos para entender lo injusto de haber intentado precarizar la sanidad pública en nuestro país y para pensar también la injusticia que significa una educación para ricos y pobres, así como la urgencia de terminar con las pensiones miserables de nuestros ancianos, los más sufrientes con el coronavirus. Vivimos tiempos que muestran que no somos, como dijo la Thatcher, sólo hombres y mujeres aislados. El coronavirus es la prueba más evidente que la sociedad existe. No sólo ahora, sino ahora y siempre.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El desafío social en tiempos del COVID-19

Autor: 

Este Informe Especial es el tercero de una serie que elaborará la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) sobre la evolución y los efectos de la pandemia del COVID-19 en América Latina y el Caribe.

En esta edición se actualizan las cifras macroeconómicas derivadas de la crisis sanitaria global y se miden sus diferentes impactos socioeconómicos que evidencian un aumento de la pobreza, la pobreza extrema y reflejan la matriz de la desigualdad en la región.

Ante las grandes brechas históricas que la pandemia ha agravado, la CEPAL reitera que es el momento de implementar políticas universales, redistributivas y solidarias con enfoque de derechos, para no dejar a nadie atrás.

Las respuestas en materia de protección social deben articular las medidas de corto plazo necesarias para atender las manifestaciones más agudas de la emergencia (garantía universal de ingresos, acceso universal a las pruebas y a la atención médica, a los servicios básicos y a la vivienda, a la alimentación adecuada y a la educación), con otras de mediano y largo plazo (salud universal, estrategias de inclusión laboral en el período de la recuperación), orientadas a garantizar el ejercicio de los derechos de las personas mediante el fortalecimiento del Estado de bienestar y la provisión universal de protección social.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El gobierno de los EE.UU. debe eliminar de inmediato las sanciones económicas para evitar causar más muertes por pandemia, dicen economistas

Autor: 

WASHINGTON, DC ― El gobierno de los Estados Unidos debe eliminar de inmediato las sanciones económicas contra Irán, Cuba, Venezuela y otros países para evitar muertes innecesarias y una propagación más amplia de la pandemia, dijo el economista Jeffrey Sachs, profesor y director del Centro para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Universidad de Columbia. Si bien las sanciones ya causan decenas de miles de muertes innecesarias, el número de víctimas mortales durante la nueva pandemia de coronavirus empeorará en países donde las importaciones de medicamentos y equipamiento médico, y el mantenimiento del agua, el saneamiento y la infraestructura de atención médica estén restringidos debido al impacto de las sanciones estadounidenses. Estas restricciones también harán que sea más difícil para las autoridades de salud controlar la propagación de la enfermedad dentro de sus países.

“La administración Trump está utilizando sanciones contra Irán y Venezuela para presionar a esos gobiernos al inducir un sufrimiento generalizado”, dijo Sachs. “Esta política es desmesurada y viola flagrantemente el derecho internacional. Lo que es peor, ahora está alimentando la epidemia de coronavirus. Es imprescindible que Estados Unidos elimine estas sanciones inmorales e ilegales para permitir que Irán y Venezuela enfrenten la epidemia de la manera más efectiva y rápida posible”.

Las paralizantes sanciones económicas contra Venezuela e Irán, y una serie de sanciones dirigidas a Corea del Norte, fueron impuestas unilateralmente por el presidente Trump, gracias a los amplios poderes que tiene el presidente de EE.UU. para imponer sanciones en virtud de la Ley de Poderes Económicos de Emergencia Internacional y la Ley de Emergencias Nacionales. La congresista Ilhan Omar (Demócrata por Minnesota) presentó recientemente un proyecto de ley que reformaría estas dos leyes para restablecer el control y la supervisión del Congreso sobre el poder del presidente para imponer sanciones.

“No hay duda de que la capacidad de Irán para responder al nuevo coronavirus se ha visto obstaculizada por las sanciones económicas de la administración Trump, y en consecuencia la cifra de muertos es probablemente mucho mayor de lo que hubiera sido en condiciones normales”, dijo Mark Weisbrot, codirector del Centro de Investigación en Economía y Política (CEPR). “Tampoco cabe duda de que las sanciones han afectado la capacidad de Irán para contener el brote, lo que a su vez provocó más infecciones y posiblemente la propagación del virus más allá de las fronteras de Irán”.

El economista Francisco Rodríguez, un destacado experto sobre la economía venezolana, dijo: “Independientemente de si uno está de acuerdo o no con la justificación inicial de las sanciones económicas, está claro que perjudican gravemente la capacidad de los países afectados para responder a la pandemia global. Esto tiene graves consecuencias sobre la vida de sus ciudadanos y significa un importante riesgo para la salud global”.

Incluso antes de que el coronavirus comenzara a extenderse, los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) de EE.UU. advirtieron que Venezuela estaba experimentando graves brotes de enfermedades infecciosas y señalaron que había habido “un colapso de la infraestructura médica en Venezuela”, y que “la escasez de agua y alimentos, electricidad, medicinas y suministros médicos contribuyó a una creciente crisis humanitaria”.

“Los estadounidenses son las personas más generosas del mundo en donaciones per cápita a la caridad. En medio de una pandemia mundial, creo que la mayoría de los estadounidenses quieren dejar a un lado la política y hacer todo lo posible para garantizar que todos, donde sea que vivan en este planeta, tengan la mejor oportunidad posible de obtener alimentos, agua limpia, buena higiene y atención médica”, dijo Linda Bilmes, profesoral principal “Daniel Patrick Moynihan” de Políticas Públicas de la Universidad de Harvard. “Eliminar las sanciones es lo correcto por razones humanitarias, y también es lo mejor desde la perspectiva de nuestros propios intereses”.

“En una época de crisis, con decenas de millones de personas en los países afectados en riesgo de contraer la enfermedad y posiblemente morir a causa de ella, la única respuesta humanitaria razonable es suspender las sanciones hasta que pase la amenaza”, dijo Dean Baker, economista del CEPR.

“Si el gobierno de Estados Unidos va a ayudar a otros países, ni se diga ejercer algún tipo de liderazgo durante esta crisis global, lo primero que debe hacer es no hacer daño”, agregó Weisbrot. “Las sanciones económicas que Estados Unidos aplica contra Irán, Cuba, Venezuela y otros países hacen un daño inmenso”.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El impacto de la pandemia en la economía latinoamericana

El paro de las actividades económicas afectó gravemente a las economías latinoamericanas durante el primer semestre de 2020, se perdieron 8 años de producción. Lo que se va a discutir en este texto es que las economías más afectadas fueron las que arrastraban menor dinamismo económico y las menos, las contrarias.

Desde 2013 República Dominicana, tuvo la tasa de mayor crecimiento económico, con 6.2% al año. Su producción se contrajo un sexto durante el primer semestre del 2020, pero su gran dinámica frenó su caída. Los siguientes países más fuertes entre 2013 y 2019 fueron Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Perú y Bolivia con tasas mayores a 3%. Estas economías observaron la menor contracción durante el mismo periodo excepto por Perú y Honduras. El paro de la actividad económica dañaron a Paraguay, Guatemala y Costa Rica, con un retroceso de entre tres y cuatro años, mientras que en Bolivia fue de 5. Para todos representó menos de una décima parte de su PIB.

En Paraguay, la actividad más importante es servicios con poco menos de la mitad del total de la economía que fueron severamente afectados con el cese de actividades. Sin embargo, la manufactura, su segundo sector más importante, cayó levemente, lo que le previno una gran pérdida del producto.

El Perú perdió cerca de 9 años de producción, a pesar de ser uno de los países más dinámicos. Esto representó un tercio de su producción total en el primer semestre del 2020, convirtiéndolo en el país con mayor caída anual del PIB en la región. Al igual que Paraguay, los servicios son determinantes. Estos disminuyeron una cuarta parte, sobre todo en restauración y turismo. Su sector industrial cayó 40%. Honduras también se contrajo 9 años.

Los países con crecimiento menor al 3% desde 2013 son: El Salvador, México, Chile, Uruguay, Belice, Jamaica y Ecuador. Los últimos cuatro crecieron apenas a tasas superiores al 1% en ese periodo. Finalmente, los países con el peor desempeño son Brasil y Argentina, que decrecieron en promedio 0.5% al trimestre entre 2013 y 2019.

Las economías de Argentina y México fueron fuertemente afectadas por el COVID, con una quinta parte de su producción perdida en el primer semestre del 2020. En México todos los sectores de la economía se contrajeron posiblemente debido al cierre del mercado interno a la par del internacional. La actividad agrícola cayó 1%, la de servicios 16%, restauración y turismo perdieron 70%, e industria 26%. En Argentina, los servicios se mantuvieron durante el primer semestre, por un empuje de 4% al PIB a través del aumento del gasto en seguridad social, educación y salud pública. Estos suman el 64% del PIB. Las ramas como el comercio mayorista y minorista, hoteles y restaurantes y la intermediación financiera crecieron 30%. No obstante, los problemas argentinos previos se agravaron con el cierre de las actividades económicas y del comercio internacional.

Brasil, de otro lado, apenas descendió una décima parte. Al igual que México y Argentina, los servicios representan 64% de la economía, que cuidaron a través de transferencias monetarias. Al igual que la Argentina, su bajo crecimiento previo hizo que perdiera una gran cantidad de años de producción. Las tres economías más grandes de América Latina perdieron en promedio 10 años de producción.

Para Belice y Jamaica, el comercio es la actividad más grande de la economía. Jamaica es el peor caso, con un desplome equivalente a 24 años de producción sin intervención pública. En Belice, el gobierno aumentó el gasto menos del 2%, y de todos modos es el segundo país con mayor caída anual después del Perú.

En promedio, América Latina perdió ocho años de producción, mientras que China apenas uno, Estados Unidos seis y la Unión Europea 11. China, Europa, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Perú y República Dominicana impusieron cuarentena obligatoria. Panamá realizó restricciones de salida por género. Chile, Cuba y Guatemala, realizaron cuarentena por zonas, mientras que en Brasil y Estados Unidos los estados definieron diversas cuarentenas. Costa Rica, México, Nicaragua y Uruguay aplicaron recomendaciones del gobierno de distanciamiento social y de preferencia no salir a la calle.

El resultado para la economía de las políticas de prevención de contagios está fuertemente determinado por el crecimiento económico de la última década. Cuando la dinámica económica es baja, una pequeña caída, impulsada por el cierre de las actividades económicas internas y externas, provoca una gran contracción medida en términos de años del producto. Si la dinámica es alta, una gran caída conlleva solo una baja reducción de la producción. Hay dos casos especiales, Perú y Honduras, que salen de este comportamiento. En ambos pesa la informalidad, donde que se vio fuertemente afectado por el cierre, y el tamaño del sector restauración y turismo, donde el cierre del mercado externo fue determinante.

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El impacto del COVID-19 en las economías de la región (Región Andina)

Autor: 

Este documento analiza el impacto de la pandemia de COVID-19 en los países de la región andina: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, y Venezuela. Aquí se discuten los principales canales de transmisión del choque global para la región, el impacto
potencial en su crecimiento y las medidas adoptadas por los gobiernos.
La magnitud del impacto dependerá de la duración de la pandemia, su propagación y las medidas de prevención y de respuesta de los países para contener y amortiguar el choque. También dependerá de la estructura de sus economías y su exposición y vulnerabilidad a canales de transmisión globales; por ejemplo, su apertura comercial e integración a cadenas de valor globales, contribución del sector turismo, dependencia de materias primas, integración financiera, entre otros.
La prioridad número uno es contener la propagación del virus a nivel doméstico para minimizar el impacto directo. Los expertos de la Organización Mundial de la Salud y la experiencia en China y otros países de Asia y Europa destacan la importancia de “aplanar la curva” y contener el contagio, para evitar un colapso del sistema sanitario y minimizar el impacto tanto en vidas como en la actividad económica.
El impacto en el crecimiento dependerá de la evolución de la pandemia fuera y dentro de las fronteras de cada país, la vulnerabilidad de cada país y su capacidad de respuesta, incluida la de su sistema de salud. El espacio fiscal y el acceso a financiamiento serán determinantes para la respuesta, así como asegurar y proporcionar liquidez al sector bancario y al resto de la economía.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

El sistema de transporte público eléctrico en América Latina

Los compromisos internacionales de la agenda 2030 de Naciones Unidas ha obligado a los gobiernos a repensar la política de movilidad pública en todo el mundo. El cambio en los sistemas de transporte público por unidades eléctricas ha puesto sobre la mesa la importancia de China como exportador de estas unidades y la pedida de demanda mundial de petróleo en el largo plazo.

Según Bloomberg, cada autobús eléctrico ahorra 0,5 barril de petróleo diarios. A finales de 2018, según la International Energy Agency, había 460,000 autobuses eléctricos en el mundo, con un ahorro anual de 82,8 millones de barriles. El precio de un bus eléctrico, en promedio, es de $540 mil dólares y uno a diésel $450 mil pero el ahorro en petróleo es de $155,000 dólares en una vida útil de doce años a $71 dólares b/d. Si bien la infraestructura de colocar las estaciones de carga eléctricas incrementa los costos del cambio de flota, en el largo plazo, los costes deben ir a la baja conforme circulen más unidades y las baterías se abaraten. El problema de la sustitución yace en si los precios del petróleo se mantienen debajo de 30 dólares barril más allá del 2020.

Del total de buses eléctricos en el mundo, el 95% se encuentran en China. Desde 2011, el cambio de matriz energética es una meta pública, convirtiéndose en el principal productor y consumidor de vehículos eléctricos en el mundo en el 2014. También está a la cabeza de ese comercio mundial, con 1,520 autobuses exportados en el 2018 seguido de EEUU con 859 unidades es el segundo exportador, fabricados por una empresa china en California.

En América Latina es todavía incipiente el uso de autobuses eléctricos si bien Chile comenzó los planes de electrificar el transporte masivo cuando se comprometió en la COP25 a tener el 100% de la flota electrificada al 2024 y creó la iniciativa Ruta Energética 2018 - 2022. A finales de 2018 llegaron 100 vehículos y hay otros 183 que operan en Santiago desde el 2019.

Para fines del 2020, Colombia quisiera ser el país con más autobuses eléctricos de la región. La Ley de Movilidad Eléctrica y Sostenible de julio del 2019 debe convertir a Bogotá en la ciudad con mayor flota eléctrica con 483 unidades. Por su parte, Cali ya tiene 26 unidades y Medellín 64 y la ley obliga que para julio del 2020, el Gobierno Nacional, los municipios de categoría 1 (con 700,001 hasta 2,000,000 habitantes) y los especiales, exceptuando a Tumaco y Buenaventura, deberán cumplir con una cuota del 30% de vehículos eléctricos que se compren o contraten anualmente.

Sao Paulo tiene 15 autobuses en movimiento desde fines de 2019 producidos en la planta BYD de Campinas; que tiene el objetivo de fabricar buses para todo el país. La fuente de energía de los cargadores de los vehículos es generada en el parque solar en Araçatuba. La ley número 16.802 de Sao Paulo plantea que el sistema de transporte masivo debe, gradualmente, reducir a cero las emisiones de contaminantes. Igualmente, el 13 de febrero del 2020 la Comisión de Constitución y Justicia del Senado de Brasil aprobó una ley que prohibirá la venta de automóviles de gasolina y diésel para el 2040. Con esto, se quiere posicionar como el país con mayor electromovilidad regional en competencia con Chile y Colombia.

En Guayaquil, Ecuador, hay 20 unidades operando desde marzo del 2019 con una inversión de 400,000 US$ por unidad financiada por la Corporación Financiera Nacional dentro del plan de Movilidad Eléctrica. La empresa BYD, a finales de 2019, construyó allí una estación de carga eléctrica para recargar los autobuses y taxis. En Quito se planea comprar 300 autobuses eléctricos, en suspenso por los problemas derivados del COVID. Con la reforma en la Ley de Eficiencia Energética a partir de 2025 no se incorporarán vehículos a diésel al sistema de transporte masivo en Ecuador.

En Buenos Aires comenzaron pruebas con 8 unidades en mayo del 2019 y en Mendoza ya hay 12 unidades funcionando desde julio de 2019. En la Ciudad de México hay 40 autobuses eléctricos operando desde noviembre del 2019. En el documento de Estrategia de electromovilidad de la Ciudad de México 2018 – 2030 se planea comprar en este periodo 3,390 buses eléctricos para cubrir 29 líneas troncales que cubren 500 km de transporte masivo. En San José, Costa Rica, por su parte, se espera que para finales de 2020 lleguen los primeros 12 buses eléctricos alemanes. En Montevideo, Uruguay también hay pruebas con 10 vehículos en circulación.

Existen 54 fabricantes de buses eléctricos e híbridos en el mundo encabezados por BYD y Yutong. El mercado mundial de autobuses crecerá 27.2% al año particularmente en la región Asia Pacifico en la década que se inicia, afectando la demanda de petróleo de largo plazo. Este cambio energético será el nuevo impulso para el crecimiento de la economía mundial del siglo XXI. Será también un tema de enfrentamiento entre Estados Unidos y China; y de América Latina con Estados Unidos.

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Enfrentar los efectos cada vez mayores del COVID-19 para una reactivación con igualdad: nuevas proyecciones

Autor: 

Este Informe Especial es el quinto de una serie que elabora la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) sobre la evolución y los efectos del COVID-19 en América Latina y el Caribe. Esta edición se centra en los efectos económicos cada vez mayores de la pandemia en el mundo y la región en aras de una reactivación con igualdad.

La CEPAL proyecta que el número de personas en situación de pobreza se incrementará en 45,4 millones en 2020, con lo que el total de personas en esa condición pasaría de 185,5 millones en 2019 a 230,9 millones en 2020, cifra que representa el 37,3% de la población latinoamericana.

Los países de la región han anunciado grandes paquetes de medidas fiscales para hacer frente a la emergencia sanitaria y mitigar sus efectos sociales y económicos.

Los esfuerzos nacionales deben ser apoyados por la cooperación internacional para ampliar el espacio de política a través de mayor financiamiento en condiciones favorables y alivio de la deuda. Asimismo, avanzar en la igualdad es fundamental para el control eficaz de la pandemia y para una recuperación económica sostenible en América Latina y el Caribe.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Estados Unidos y las finanzas de la pandemia

En la pandemia, EEUU y sus instituciones han tomado medidas que han impactado para brindar liquidez al sistema internacional. En América Latina, específicamente, estas han llegado a través del FMI pero también por acuerdos con el banco central estadounidense (FED). De otro lado, la estrecha relación entre el FED y la banca se aprecia en la distribución de utilidades de estas en el 1trimestre del 2020 y el auge de la bolsa.

Desde fines de enero, las bolsas de valores mundiales presentaron una caída generalizada como efecto de las medidas de cierre de la producción y de los servicios en el mundo (http://www.obela.org/analisis/la-financiarizacion-de-la-crisis-del-covid19). El 23 de marzo, día de los mínimos en todas las bolsas del mundo, el FED anuncio un conjunto de medidas para la recuperación económica que cambio la trayectoria de las bolsas. La intervención se realizó mediante varios canales:

• El Programa Main Street, 600 mil millones de dólares (mmdd), diseñado para ayudar al flujo de crédito a las pequeñas y medianas empresas que enfrentan interrupciones en el flujo de efectivo.

• La compra de bonos corporativos en mercado primario, 500 mmdd, compra de bonos y otorga de préstamos a empresas calificadas.

• La compra de bonos corporativos en mercado secundario, 250 mmdd, compra de bonos de manera individual y Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s), instrumentos bursátiles que agrupan activos y replican su comportamiento agregado.

• El aumento de disponibilidad de financiamiento de letras de cambio y pagarés a corto plazo, 100 mmdd, a empresas y otros.

• La compra de activos colateralizados de créditos al consumidor, 100 mdd; por ejemplo, préstamos para automóviles, préstamos estudiantiles y otras.

• La compra de deuda a corto plazo de los gobiernos estatales y locales, 500 mmdd.

La tasa de desempleo máxima de 14.7 % (22 millones de desempleados) y 42 millones de solicitudes de ayuda por desempleo de Estados Unidos en abril se redujo a junio a 13.3% pero con 45 millones de solicitudes. El crédito revolvente cayó un 64%, en el primer trimestre y la empresa Visa reportó, en mayo, una caída de 21% en el volumen de uso de tarjetas de crédito y un incremento de 12% en tarjetas de débito. Hay un incremento en el impago de créditos hipotecarios, cartera vencida en créditos a estudiantes, tarjetas de crédito y del sector productivo corporativo.

En EEUU se presentan, una duplicación de los dividendos por acción versus ganancias por acción en la banca. (más información). Esto en el contexto de la quiebra de empresas (J.C. Penney y Neiman Marcus) de ventas al por menor, hoteles; (Chuck E. Cheese, Food First) algunas cadenas de restaurantes, Hertz Rent a Car, (renta de vehículos) y la pérdida de grado de inversión (Renault, Ford, Delta Airlines, Bombardier, Boeing, American Airlines, por nombrar las más saltantes). En estas condiciones las bolsas de valores han presentado contrariamente una fuerte recuperación, y el Nasdaq ha alcanzado nuevos máximos. Allí están registradas las empresas Zoom, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, Netflix, Facebook entre las más saltantes beneficiadas con el cierre.

Con el resto del mundo, el FED continúa con su papel de proveedor de liquidez internacional, como banco central mundial, mediante líneas swap de 60 mmdd con Australia, Brasil, Corea, México, Singapur y Suecia; y 30 mmdd con Dinamarca, Noruega y Nueva Zelandia. También lanzó un programa de repos, abierto a los bancos centrales que tengan cuenta en la FED, para facilitar dólares a corto plazo sin necesidad de vender tenencias de bonos del tesoro norteamericano, bajo el acuerdo de recompra de los activos.

El FMI ha dado créditos rápidos a Haití (112 mdd), Santa Lucia (29 mdd), Dominica (14 mdd) y Granada (22 mdd), mientras que los favorecidos son Bolivia (327 mdd), Costa Rica (508 mdd), República Dominicana (650 mdd), Ecuador (643 mdd), El Salvador (389 mdd), Panamá (515 mdd) y Paraguay (274 mdd). Otros países grandes, como México, Perú, Chile y Colombia tienen líneas de abiertas de crédito flexible por 61,000; 11,000; 23,930 y 11,000 mdd, respectivamente A estos créditos se agregan algunos concedidos por el BID y el Banco Mundial.

La intervención del FED y de los bancos centrales en los países habla de la imperfección de los mercados, de las asimetrías y de la falta de libre concurrencia, al revés de los defensores del mercado perfecto. La distribución bancaria del doble de dividendos de lo que obtuvieron como ganancia las empresas en el primer trimestre por acción es un contrasentido que refleja la financiarización, el poder del capital financiero y del dólar. El incremento de la liquidez por el FED la banca central ha permitido que las bolsas se recuperen sin una recuperación de la producción, y altos niveles de desempleo, bajos niveles de consumo y destrucción de la producción, en una contradicción que conlleva un incremento en la desigualdad ya existente.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Food security and loss of income

This note will review the current food picture that is complicated for much of the world, especially for vulnerable countries, given two particular factors: the fall in population incomes that the pandemic and confinement have produced in the world's economies, and the dependence on external sources of food.

The pandemic constraints made evident food import dependence, as well as the lack of sovereignty in food production in some countries. The food trade has become more complicated in terms of its distribution networks, resulting in increases in food prices. This crisis has put into perspective the costs and benefits of free-market food dependence.

The world has shifted towards food restrictions and more closed markets. Countries like Russia, Argentina, and Brazil stand out as major net food exporters and might be affected. Dependence on foreign trade makes net food importers such as Mexico, the United States, China, most of Africa, and the European Union, vulnerable to any reduction in international trade. Ultimately, the pandemic shows the fragility of value chains and interdependence in terms of production and supplies in any sector.

Even when international trade becomes regularized and the domestic distribution of food in dependent countries, income and employment have fallen across the world, which puts the food security of the population in vulnerable countries at risk in terms of revenue. The FAO mentions: "The sharp slowdown in all the world's economies, and particularly in the most vulnerable ones (...), will make it difficult for countries, especially those dependent on food imports, to have the necessary resources to buy food", as unemployment rates have increased. The economic impact of the COVID-19 on income will be more severe.

Globally, there will be an impact on income and employment; however, for low-income countries, the picture is more critical. They spend most of their income on food, relative to Engel's law, which links a smaller percentage of food expenditure to increased revenue. Therefore, lower-income countries put their food security at risk.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated a global recession of about 3.2 percent. The developed countries expect a drop of 5% while developing countries will contract by 0.7%. The scenario could be even more adverse to some nations, especially for low-income countries. Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, expects extreme poverty - people living on less than $2 a day - to increase for the first time in three decades.

From a multilateral effort, it is possible to address these particular circumstances and lessen the impact that low-income countries will have. There is a need to provide a minimum income to enable food security. To face this issue, the United Nations proposed a humanitarian aid programme of approximately US$ 67 billion, which aims to address the pandemic, food insecurity, and poverty in vulnerable countries. This programme would not take effect until the end of 2020 and would be insufficient to reduce vulnerability ultimately. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that without additional efforts, the cost of assistance to the "10 percent of the world's most vulnerable people from the worst impacts of the pandemic is approximately $90 billion, equivalent to 1 percent of the global stimulus package implemented by OECD and G20 countries.

The outlook for food security in the face of the lock-in highlights food dependence. In lower-income countries, it is more critical and urgent than the equally delicate fragility of food supply chains. The question is now, how is food produced and distributed worldwide. Most countries can produce food themselves and need not rely on long supply chains to feed their populations. Supporting local food production and consumption should be seen as a way out of this problem and even a boost to employment in the primary sector.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

How Did China’s COVID-19 Shutdown Affect U.S. Supply Chains?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on trade between the United States and China so far. As workers became sick or were quarantined, factories temporarily closed, disrupting international supply chains. At the same time, the trade relationship between the United States and China has been characterized by rising protectionism and heightened trade policy uncertainty over the last few years. Against this background, this post examines how the recent period of economic disruptions in China has affected U.S. imports and discusses how this episode might impact firms’ supply chains going forward. 

Based on data for the first four months of 2020, this post shows that U.S. imports from China declined sharply in February and March, before bouncing back in April. The decline was partially offset by growing imports from countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh. As perhaps could have been expected, firms with established supply chain relationships in these countries benefited the most from the disruptions in China. Those reliant on China were largely unable to find suppliers in other countries on such short notice. Additionally, large U.S. importers were more likely to continue relationships with their Chinese suppliers during the shutdown than small importers were. 

A Snapshot of U.S. Trade 

The analysis presented here is based on transaction-level data of U.S. imports from Descartes Datamyne, a commercial vendor that obtains all customs records for import transactions made by vessel from U.S. Customs and Border Protection via a daily electronic feed. (Note that the data were purchased by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York—the vendor has no involvement with this study). Shipments by vessel account for about 60 percent of total U.S. imports. The data for each transaction generally contain the 6-digit HS code of the product shipped, country of origin, the weight of the shipment, the name of the U.S. consignee (the buyer) and the name of the foreign shipper (the seller). The information on firm names makes it possible to study the evolution of firms’ networks of trading partners. Datamyne also estimates the value of a shipment based on the reported product, its weight, and other information. 

The Disruption of Trade as China Copes with the Coronavirus 

Imports from China declined sharply in the first quarter while U.S. imports overall decreased to a lesser extent. While imports from China were on average at or below their level one year prior even before the COVID-19 outbreak —due to higher U.S. tariffs and increased trade uncertainty—imports dropped sharply in February and March. This drop is consistent with the widespread quarantine measures in China starting in late January. At the trough, daily imports from China were around 50 percent lower in 2020 than one year earlier, before bouncing back toward the end of March as quarantine measures were lifted. Total U.S. imports were about 10 percent below their level one year earlier over this period. 

The drop in imports from China led to a significant shift in sourcing toward other countries for several product categories. China’s market share in textiles, footwear, and machinery declined significantly in March 2020, both when compared to March 2019 and when compared to January. At the same time, India’s and Bangladesh’s market share for textiles increased strongly, and Vietnam gained in footwear and machinery. Although there is some volatility, sales by countries outside of China to the U.S. rose markedly, especially when compared to one year ago. 

The drop in imports from China led to a significant shift in sourcing toward other countries for several product categories. 

Supply Chain Adjustments 

To what extent is the shift in aggregate imports driven by firms switching sellers? The evidence suggests that U.S. importers have not been able to fully replace their Chinese suppliers. Firms that sourced from China in January 2020 imported about 50 percent less from China in March. If these firms had been able to replace their Chinese suppliers with sellers from other countries, then their total imports in March should have been similar to those in the same month in earlier years. However, that is not the case. Consider a firm sourcing a given six-digit Harmonized System (HS6) product code from China in January and March 2020 (the “exposed” firm). Compared to a firm purchasing the same product in the same two months from a different country, the exposed firm’s total imports fell by 15 percent more between January and March than the non-exposed firm’s—after controlling for seasonal factors that were also present in earlier years. This finding suggests that exposed firms were not able to fully replace their affected suppliers with alternate sources. 

Who benefited from the drop in imports from China? The analysis highlights that importers that already had relationships with non-Chinese suppliers were able to expand their import volume over this period. For example, the average firm that already sourced a given HS6 product from Vietnam in January increased its imports of that HS6 from Vietnam by 7 percent in March after controlling for seasonal factors. Similarly, a firm that already sourced from Bangladesh in January expanded its imports from that country by 16 percent. This finding is consistent with prior work suggesting that finding new suppliers and building up relationships takes time. As Chinese suppliers were no longer able to deliver, firms with established relationships in other countries stepped in and gained market share. 

Although firms’ relationships with Chinese suppliers were severely impacted by COVID-19, not all firms were equally affected. The disruption of Chinese production disproportionately affected smaller U.S. importers. To illustrate this point, take all importer-exporter pairs trading some HS6 product in January. Additionally, I define importer-exporter-HS6 combinations that transacted less than $1 million in January as involving “small customers,” and combinations trading more than $10 million in January as involving “large customers.” Note that the lines are declining, that is, not all importers buy the same product from the same exporter again after the initial January purchase. The declining share of repeat customers results for example from importers switching to a different supplier. The decline is particularly pronounced for small customers, which do not trade as often as large customers. 

At the same time, there was no such difference for large customers. In fact, large customers of Chinese suppliers were even slightly more likely to trade again in March than large customers of non-Chinese suppliers. The finding suggests that the orders of large customers were more likely to be fulfilled during the supply chain disruption in China than those of small ones were. One interpretation of this result could be that Chinese suppliers prioritized large customers as they became more capacity constrained due to COVID-19. 

This shift toward large customers is also apparent by looking at the distribution of transactions involving Chinese suppliers. The share of imports accounted for by large customers purchasing at least $10 million of a given HS6 increased by about 5 percentage points. On the other hand, the share of importer-supplier-HS6 combinations trading less than $1 million fell from 60 percent to 53 percent. 

Outlook 

This post has illustrated that the disruptions in China due to COVID-19 had significant effects on U.S. supply chains. Imports from China fell by about 50 percent in March relative to January. The disruption led to a shift of U.S. importers to other Asian countries, driven in particular by firms with already established relationships in these countries. While most large U.S. customers continued trading with their Chinese suppliers, smaller U.S. customers appear to have had more difficulty continuing their relationships during the COVID-19 related shutdown. 

Going forward, COVID-19 is likely to give further impetus to trends that already began in previous years. It is likely to lead firms to consider bringing some critical activities back to the United States or to set up backup suppliers to reduce the firms’ exposure to any single supplier or country. While introducing such additional safeguards is going to reduce the efficiency of supply chains in normal times, it may well improve performance in the longer run by mitigating the high costs of supply chain disruptions.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Global Economy

Autor: 

COVID-19 es una pandemia mundial que causa estragos en los sistemas de salud de las principales naciones desarrolladas y hasta ahora ha cobrado miles de vidas, a nivel mundial. Los altísimos niveles de transmisión han hecho que los gobiernos de todo el mundo hayan tenido que congelar el funcionamiento cotidiano en sus países para contrarrestar la crisis.

Esto ha tenido graves repercusiones en el frente económico, con el FMI declarando que ya estamos en medio de una recesión mundial. Se está pregonando que es un golpe mayor para la economía mundial que la crisis financiera de 2008. Como tal, COVID-19 es uno de los tres acontecimientos económicos más importantes de la historia. ¿Qué sucede ahora? ¿A dónde vamos desde aquí? ¿Está la política económica a punto de sufrir un cambio a largo plazo, como resultado de ello?

Para profundizar en estas preguntas y explicar los efectos de la pandemia en la Economía Mundial, los estudiantes de CESP realizaron una conferencia pública online de la Prof. Jayati Ghosh, que se pone a disposición.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Informe sobre el impacto económicoen América Latina y el Caribe de la enfermedad por coronavirus (COVID-19)

Autor: 

La CEPAL realizó el presente informe en respuesta a la solicitud realizada por el Gobierno de México, en el ejercicio de la Presidencia Pro-Témpore de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC), sobre Asuntos de Salud para la Atención y el Seguimiento de la Pandemia COVID-19 en América Latina.

El informe concluye que la crisis que sufre la región en 2020, con una caída del PIB del 5,3%, será la peor en toda su historia. Para encontrar una contracción de magnitud comparable hace falta retroceder hasta la Gran Depresión de la década de 1930 (-5%) o, más aún, hasta 1914 (-4,9%).

os escenarios posibles que aún están abiertos son por lo menos tres: continuación de la globalización, pero sobre la base de nuevos modelos de gobernanza más receptivos al multilateralismo y la corrección de las desigualdades entre países, soluciones de alcance exclusivamente nacional, o una acentuación de la regionalización.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Initial impact of COVID19 on United States. Economy more widespread than on mortality

Pandemic Impact on Mortality and Economy Varies Across Age Groups and Geographies

The initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. economy was widespread and affected people across all age groups and all states while the initial mortality impact targeted mostly older people in just a few states according to independent research by the U.S. Census Bureau.
During April 2020, the first full month of the pandemic, the United States experienced an additional 2.4 deaths per 10,000 individuals beyond predictions based on historical mortality trends. This was a 33% increase in all-cause national mortality — deaths caused directly or indirectly by the coronavirus.
There was a weak correlation between increased mortality rates and negative economic impact across states. There were states that experienced significant employment displacement but no additional mortality, for example. On the other hand, there were states that experienced large mortality impacts but modest economic impacts.
These additional deaths during the early days of the pandemic were highly concentrated in older age groups and in a few states.
Recent research examined the relationship between the pandemic’s mortality and economic impacts across different age groups and geography.

Economic Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a devastating loss of life but it has also devastated the nation's economy.
Similar to the excess mortality concept, the pandemic’s economic impact is calculated by taking the difference between what is expected (based on historical trends) and what actually happens during a given period.
The ratio of employment to population is one measure of economic activity that shows the share of population 16 years and older working full- or part-time.
This measure closely tracks other possible measures of economic activity such as unemployment rate, percent of population with unemployment insurance claims, consumer spending, and small business employment.
Declines in the employment-to-population ratio that exceeded predictions indicate there was additional employment loss in the country due to the pandemic.
The decline in the employment-to-population ratio in the United States in April 2020 was significant. Historical trends predicted a 61.3% ratio but it turned out to be 51.5%. This additional national decline was 9.9 per 100 individuals in April 2020 (Figure 1). That means there were fewer people employed than was expected before the pandemic.


Impacts Varied by Geography

Deaths caused directly or indirectly by COVID during the first full month of the pandemic were highly geographically concentrated.
About half of all national excess deaths were in just two states: New York and New Jersey.
But the economic impact pattern was completely different because it was more geographically widespread.
Every state, except for Wyoming, experienced a statistically significant decline in the employment-to-population ratio during that time.
The two states with the largest initial declines in employment — Nevada and Michigan — only accounted for about 7% of the national employment displacement.
There was a weak correlation between increased mortality rates and negative economic impact across states. There were states that experienced significant employment displacement but no additional mortality, for example. On the other hand, there were states that experienced large mortality impacts but modest economic impacts.

Different Patterns by Age

As with geography, job loss was more widespread than excess mortality across age groups.
In April 2020, excess mortality increased with age and was largest among the oldest age group. Individuals ages 85 and older represent only 3% of the total U.S. population ages 25 years and older but accounted for 34% of the overall excess mortality in the country.
On the other hand, employment displacement decreased with age. It was largest among the younger age group (ages 25 to 44). These individuals make up only 39% of the U.S. population ages 25 and older but accounted for about half of the people 25 and older who lost their jobs nationwide.


Beyond the First Month of Pandemic

Findings presented here document the pandemic’s impacts during April 2020. As the policy response and individuals’ behaviors change over time, the mortality and economic impacts will continue to evolve.
Beyond the virus itself, economic decline caused by the pandemic may have had an indirect impact on the U.S. death count. Excess all-cause mortality measure would capture any such changes — from, say, fewer workplace fatal accidents to more drug overdoses — but the extent to which it happened and the mechanisms underlying the relationship between economic activity and mortality must be addressed in future work.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Know Your Enemy: The Dangerous Futility of Pseudo-Philanthropic Neoliberalism

The terrain of the political war constituted by the public health, economic and political crisis is widening every week, if not every day, sweeping up apparently chance events in its inexorable logic. Though the trend of lethal US police violence disproportionately targeting Black and racialized people is hardly new, the murder of George Floyd opened fissures for the molten anger of centuries to erupt onto the unstable surface of US politics, still the directing centre of neoliberal capitalism.

It was hardly coincidence. Racialized inequality is chief among the ugly realities of neoliberal capitalism the pandemic has deepened and exposed. It threw into relief the deadly epidemics—of drugs, violence, poverty, incarceration, overcrowding and generally deprivation–that have been ravaging non-white lives, largely ignored by the rest of society. Racialized minorities everywhere suffer higher fatalities as a result of COVID-19 because they suffer from poverty and deprivation-related co-morbidities and are disproportionately employed as healthcare and essential workers. Precariously employed and housed, they suffer disproportionately greater job, income and home losses. Finally, as tragically underlined by Floyd’s murder, they, like the marginalized everywhere, face the brunt of the authoritarian policing so integral to the neoliberal response to the pandemic.

No wonder the incident reverberated far beyond the borders of the United States. It coincided with the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in a police encounter in Canada and that of Adama Traoré, who died in police custody, also of asphyxiation, in France. In the United Kingdom, demonstrators demanding justice for Floyd recalled the still-fresh Windrush scandal in which the Conservative government deported thousands invited to work in the UK in the 1950s or their descendants to lands they barely knew because they were black and could not produce papers. Indeed, in an international coordination of outrage not seen since the worldwide demonstrations against the impending war in Iraq in 2003, protests against racism broke out simultaneously in dozens of countries. The pandemic is revealing the racist foundations of the liberal and neoliberal capitalist West.

 

Will they be dismantled? It is a real possibility. The present crisis is no ordinary recurring recession. It represents the comprehensive exhaustion of neoliberal capitalism. The pandemic merely accelerated the long-overdue reckoning. Since no other type of capitalism is possible—and has not been since the late nineteenth century—it is a crisis of capitalism per se. Necessarily multi-faceted, it can and will throw up powerful new forces demanding change practically overnight. However, to give effective battle, the left that seeks to organise these forces must know itself, its resources and the limitations it must overcome. It must also know the resources, strategies and aims of the right and the capitalist classes.

That, today, also involves knowing the enemy’s contradictions. Great as the resources of capitalist and right forces are, and long as their experience in permanent counterrevolution is, what they want and need–to launch a new phase of neoliberalism –is almost certainly unobtainable. Given that, the left must prepare to deal with the sheer destruction their efforts will wreak. It must prepare to carry society out of it and place it on a radically different, preferably, socialist and anti-imperialist foundation, one that is ecologically sustainable and geared towards gender and race equality. This is the responsibility of the left today.

To discharge it, we need to know a great deal about neoliberal capitalism. How have Western responses to the pandemic remained within the neoliberal paradigm, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding? What is neoliberalism, actually, as revealed by its history? Why has it promoted the power of giant corporations, particularly financial, rather than advancing free markets, as it claimed to do? Where has it left capitalist and right forces after forty years? What does the behaviour and activities of its major leaders tell us about the new phase of neoliberalism which they will attempt to establish? Why is it almost certain to fail? Let us take these questions in turn.

Plus ça Change, Plus c’est la même Chose

Encouraged as we have been as neoliberal governments broke the core taboo on public expenditure during the pandemic, on closer scrutiny most Western government responses turn out to have neoliberalism’s paw prints all over them.

Some long-cherished beliefs were, to begin with, plentifully in evidence, such as that in the magic of monetary policy. In setting interest rates and determining liquidity in the banking sector through asset sales or purchases, central banks have used it (and deregulation) throughout the neoliberal decades to favour financial—or what John Maynard Keynes would have called rentier—,interests, as opposed to productive ones.

In the 1980s and 1990s, high interest rates gave owners of state debt high and risk-free returns at taxpayer expense. However, after the dot com bubble burst in 2000, low interest rates became the new game. Now, high returns came from speculating in asset markets with borrowed money. This form of unproductive profiteering, which had already begun in the 1990s by taking advantage of Japan’s low interest rates, involved investors, big financial institutions and high net worth individuals who took great risks and enjoyed high returns when the going was good. When it turned bad, the Federal Reserve regularly came to the rescue.

Beginning in 1987 with the infamous Greenspan put, it essentially injected liquidity into the financial sector to save it from its own follies. It also encouraged such speculation by deregulating the financial sector, including by repealing the Glass Steagall Act in 1999, so even ordinary commercial banks with their vast reservoirs of ordinary peoples’ savings, got in on the act. To this monetary policy repertoire, central banks added, after 2008, Quantitative Easing, essentially buying less liquid (often valueless and unsaleable) assets at book price for good cash.

Such monetary policy has been plentifully in evidence since March 2020. The frantically diarrheal monetary policy–with rates brought down to zero and unlimited asset purchases–held up the plummeting markets for bonds, US Treasuries and other assets and even led to historic rallies in stocks such that the Standard and Poor stock index made up all its losses of March. However, such market euphoria could not contrast more with the malaise and uncertainty afflicting the productive economy in which bankruptcies were multiplying despite the temporary government relief programmes. It remains unclear how long the ‘recovery’ can last. Since, unlike the long string of previous crises punctuating the neoliberal age, the present one arises from the economy, not the financial markets, these e underlying economic realities will determine the fate of the financial sector. They imply a zombie rally making it difficult to pretend that monetary policy alone can fix the economy.

The emaciation of the underlying economy and the unpreparedness of most neoliberal national health systems for the pandemic forced the lockdowns and the unprecedented support packages. It also ensured that the most neoliberal governments, those of the US and the UK, were in the lead. Their productive economies were correspondingly more fragile because, over the neoliberal decades, they had hot-housed precisely the sorts of ‘non-essential’ service sector economic activities–cheap tourism, hospitality, entertainment, and personal care, all reliant on cheap labour–that proved most vulnerable amid the lockdowns.

The devil was, however, in the details of the broken taboo. Take the billions suddenly made available for the public health response. In the core English-speaking neoliberal countries, in particular the US and the UK, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, they have been less about saving the people from the pandemic and more about ensuring that corporations make huge profits. This may be most obvious in the US, with its private health care system, but is no less true in the UK where neoliberal ‘privatization by stealth’ has preyed on the popularly cherished National Health Service for decades. Corporations in the medical industrial complex continue to receive lucrative contracts, whether to test or to track or just to consult with no accountability for the spectacularly bad health outcomes that have come to distinguish these countries.

This would be par for the neoliberal course. Big Pharma already stands to make a killing selling treatment drugs of dubious efficacy and the race for the vaccine is only now getting going. With powerful private interests in competition with one another and with already available drugs, misinformation is bound to circulate at ever-higher decibel levels. Consider, for example, the strange career of hydroxycloroquine, which managed to trip up even the prestigious Lancet. Such disinformation can kill people and destroy what little trust remains in public authorities, not to mention science. Needless to say, profiteering during the pandemic prevails far beyond health care. Neoliberal governments hand out hundreds of contracts for risk-free profits without adequate oversight while parliamentary scrutiny is disabled by social distancing.

Secondly, most of the apparently generous measures announced are temporary. They assume that we can go, in short order, from saving lives to saving livelihoods, a choice we should never have to make. However, both the exhaustion of the neoliberal paradigm well before the pandemic and the deficiency of neoliberal healthcare systems–their corporate as opposed to socially based character–make any return to normal difficult if not impossible. Returns to normal require nationally organised track, trace, and isolate arrangements involving labour-intensive shoe-leather epidemiology, not the capital-intensive corporate health care systems that have done so poorly for the last several months, and indeed long before then.

We can only imagine the economic pain that will follow the withdrawal of these measures. It will come on top of an unresolved public health crisis and will multiply the already dramatic economic pain of the lockdown. Unemployment is skyrocketing in nearly all neoliberal countries despite the temporary job retention measures and, as the expiration dates of these temporary measures nears, firms will likely lay off more workers given that no real recovery is in sight. In the UK, for instance, many fear unemployment will reach Great Depression levels. The expiration of other temporary measures are likely to make things worse. Housing advocates predict ‘tsunami of evictions’ in the US, UK, Canada and elsewhere after moratoria on debt repayments and evictions end. If so, they will make the current protests in the US and elsewhere mere trailers for what is to come.

There are other problems with the fiscal measures undertaken so far. Predictably, most of the new spending is going to bail out businesses directly, from airlines to defence industries. For workers and small businesses, the usual means testing, form-filling and complex eligibility criteria mean that support often does not reach the needy. Moreover, this fiscal activism is adding to debt, public and private. Where states are giving income support grants, they are borrowing from markets to do so, complying with rentier interests which have long insisted “don’t tax us, borrow from us” even though central banks are having to buy a lot of this debt to keep debt markets liquid. Further, income support programmes are often channeled through employers, giving them the discretion over which jobs retain and furlough. Elsewhere, states are guaranteeing loans to business for income support and much of this private debt will likely be socialised. Therefore, our heavily indebted economies are only piling on more debt, and more debt that is harder to pay given that the governments and business borrowing are doing so when their revenues are low and prospects of recovery dim. This is business-as-usual neoliberalism: free profit opportunity for financial institutions and more debt for decreasingly solvent governments, firms and households.

Finally, it is important to remember that neoliberalism has not just been miserly towards ordinary, working and poor people. It has also been punitive, and this has intensified during the pandemic. Lockdowns have effectively incarcerated people in their own homes, trapping vulnerable women, children and men in situations of domestic abuse. They have turned carceral institutions, run for profit in the US, into nests of infections leading to movements for the release of prisoners otherwise facing death without sentence. Policing of the lockdowns has pushed the boundaries of police power outwards. Police control of the poor and minorities, racism and anti-immigration rhetoric and policy are already in evidence in the West and even more elsewhere, particularly in the Third World. As one observer put it,

… in a time of acute material security [sic, it should say insecurity], police are arresting and imprisoning people for offenses such as stealing whiskey, shoplifting groceries, and curfew violations resulting from homelessness in cities such as New Orleans, Avon (Ohio), Orlando, and undoubtedly in countless others as well. In fact, some police departments have cynically increased the punitiveness of their practices by adding corona-related charges to non-corona-related charges or by tricking drug-users to have their drugs tested for the virus at a police department. Thus, the criminalization of life and poverty, something viewed by many as “necessary,” is the only state-sponsored response to a crisis for which there exist no other possible state-sponsored responses.

Thus, while one major neoliberal taboo has been broken, neoliberalism seems alive and well amid the pandemic, not least because right and capitalist forces have no other ideology or policy toolkit to replace it. Indeed, broken taboos litter neoliberalism’s tumultuous course. While the entire period since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 is rightly designated neoliberal, neoliberalism has been a shape-shifter all along.

Neoliberalism and its Avatars

Economic and political realities have long dictated a wide gap between the rhetoric and reality of neoliberalism. What really advanced under the covering fire of its free market discourse was the power of giant corporations. The popularity of the welfare state and public education and healthcare meant they could not be abolished, only hollowed out. Moreover, since its diagnosis of the growth slowdown of the 1970s was never accurate–it was not caused by state or union interference–neoliberalism never did revive growth. Unsurprisingly, the career of neoliberalism required frequent shifts in strategy though, thanks to left weakness, they could be executed in ways that benefitted the right and metropolitan capital. In all these cases, the US set the trend and, for the most part, the rest of the neoliberal world followed suit.

The Thatcher-Reagan mantra of free markets was already losing credibility by the end of the 1980s when the World Bank endorsed a more active government role in the economy. The decade of ‘globalization’ followed. The neoliberal baton passed from the New Right to left parties that had, over the previous decade, decided to accept rather than fight neoliberalism. People may have voted against neoliberalism, but only got a new version thereof. Since their social base did not permit them to extol the virtues of markets as fulsomely, the Clintons and the Blairs found globalization ideologically handy: they argued that this unstoppable juggernaut required welfare and social spending cuts and the transformation of the labour market with weak unions and workfare. This required accepting a state role in the economy but only to promote the interests of large corporations. This involved pursuing ‘free trade’ deals that were moreso ‘free investment’ deals, aggressively deregulating at home and leaving the economy in charge of central banks representing the interests of big financial houses and promoting free capital flows internationally. In the West, these moves accelerated both deindustrialization and the financialization, two sides of the neoliberal coin.

By 2001, the rhetoric and policy of George W. Bush’s ‘empire’ had replaced ‘globalization’. Empire combined militarism with fiscal largesse towards the rich, breaking the taboo against budget deficits, the observance of which had defined the Clinton administration. As he posted the greatest of US budget deficits, Bush also left the Federal Reserve to get on with running the economy. This time, it produced that mother of all financial bubbles, the mortgage credit bubble which burst in 2008.

The 2008 crisis required breaking the taboo against ‘printing money’. The world focused on the $750 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme (TARP), complete with the deliberately leaked drama of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson going down on bended knee before Nancy Pelosi to beg her to get it through a Congress dominated by the Democrats. However, this was peanuts compared to what the Federal Reserve did. It printed trillions to save the banking system that had bankrupted itself by its own risky behaviour.

The socialization of private debt that these fiscal and monetary bailouts entailed the austerity that defined the rest of the neoliberal period until now. Though it was stronger in Europe, thanks to its greater monetary orthodoxy, the Western world in general underwent even slower growth, a more or less complete collapse of productive investment and even greater maldistribution of income as activity was concentrated in finance as opposed to production. The enervated economy was already on its way to a crash when the pandemic hit.

If neoliberalism’s career has entailed (at least) these changes, there is absolutely no reason why the recent turn to fiscal largesse should not mark just another phase in the history of neoliberalism, one that preserves its essential core, the power of ever-larger private corporations.

Corporate Power or Competitive Markets

At their core, ideologies justifying capitalism must be about preserving the power of private property. The rest is incidental. Capitalist ideologies took a ‘free markets and free Trade’ or ‘laissez faire’ form in the mid-nineteenth century Britain when a youthful capitalism brought the world the first industrial revolution with its small firms and competitive markets.

By the late nineteenth century, a new phase of capitalism began. In the second industrial revolution, now encompassing Britain as well as her rivals, inter alia, Germany, the US, Japan, production units and technology became more massive. Capital requirements were many times greater. Mergers and cartelization led to monopoly and oligopoly in most sectors. Banks rose to a new prominence in facilitating them. The state was increasingly dragged into regulating capitalist competition as well as the class struggle domestically, and in aggressively seeking new economic territory through imperialism internationally. The latter was momentous. In this period, the relatively unresisted ‘expansion of England’ gave way to the aggressively militarised competition for colonies between her and her rivals and culminated in the First World War and the Thirty Years’ Crisis of 1914-1945.

Some of the most acute analyses of this new capitalism emerged from Marxists of the time: Hilferding wrote of finance capital, Lenin, of monopoly capital and Bukharin of the nationalization of capital. Marx had foreseen this concentration and centralization of capital. As he and these later Marxists saw it, as enterprises got larger and larger, the top-down centrally planned authoritarian space of the firm expanded at the expense of the anarchy of the market. The more social production was planned, the more easily it could be converted into the rational and democratic planning of a socialist economy, inter alia, by making it easy to gain control of the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy.

Laissez faire liberalism could no longer serve this world. Enter neoliberalism. Precisely because they too realised just how close this monopoly-finance-nationalised capital stood to socialism, intellectuals financed by big capital, such as the Austrian pioneers of neoliberalism, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, organised rearguard intellectual action in the early twentieth century, combining denial and cunning. We know it today as neoliberalism. On the one hand, they insisted, against all evidence, that capitalism continued to resemble, in some essential sense, the competitive capitalism of old. They deployed elaborate theories about competitive markets processing information that only millions of competing sellers and buyers had, and producing the best possible coordination of their capacities and needs, to justify capitalism. These theories rested on theories of price formation that were erroneous even for competitive markets, let alone the new monopolistic or oligopolistic ones. Paradoxically, they retain their allure, even for many on the left who insist that there is much to learn from Hayek and his tradition.

On the other hand, the relationship between the state and capital contained new opportunities and dangers. On the one hand, the state had to defend the power of property against the increasingly insistent demands of highly organised working classes for social reform. If it did, it would interfere with capitalist accumulation, for instance by raising regulation or wages. The increasing prominence of planning, by states and large corporations, led Hayek, for instance, to reject nineteenth century laissez faire or free markets for ‘planning for competition’, essentially their theorization of US anti-trust law, in his famous, The Road to Serfdom. Although many assume US anti-trust law is about breaking up monopolies, it effectively created the appearance of competition by organising and supporting oligopoly.

Since states were deepening their involvement in the economy, theorists like Hayek drew clear lines between what states should and should not do. They must maintain the sphere of private action and accumulation for private capital, no matter how monopolistic they got, while conceding as little as possible to the demands of the working class. Keeping up a high-decibel denunciation of socialism as a denial of freedom. Hayek and his ilk reserved a special venom for those who sought to extend negative liberal legal and political ‘freedoms from’ to positive economic ‘freedoms to’. Pursuing that would lead, more or less directly to ‘serfdom’.

Neoliberalism did not win the day immediately. The Thirty Years Crisis of 1914-45, during which neoliberalism incubated, had transformed the logics of the world, away from capitalism, as many contemporary observers saw at the time. Popular mobilizations–for war, revolution and national liberation–had produced a world of empowered working people. Nothing symbolised that more than the stabilization of the fledgling Russian Revolution into a stable and industrial society whose contribution made the difference between Allied victory and defeat in the Second World War. This popular empowerment put restraints on metropolitan capital, forcing reforms at home and decolonization abroad. The resulting expansion of demand made for a ‘golden age’ of the world economy.

In the West, it took the form of a compromise between the power of capital and labour. The crisis of that order, chiefly due to the incompatibility of their interests, could have been resolved by strengthening the power of either. During the contestations of the 1970s–the strikes, the Third World international assertion and a host of anti-war, feminist, civil rights and other movements–it appeared for a moment that things could have gone either way. However, that was not to be and the weaknesses of the left already surveyed, played a role. The result was vengeful metropolitan corporate capitalist assertion under the banner of the hitherto neglected neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism’s moment had come. It had done so when capital was, if anything, even more uncompetitive, concentrated, centralised and cartelised. Even the justification of oligopoly produced by the early neoliberals could not suffice. Now Chicago School intellectuals shifted the discourse further, justifying monopoly as the logical result of competition through which the fittest had survived. This version of neoliberalism aimed not to preserve consumer choice anymore but consumer ‘welfare’, however defined. Corporations were only a definition away from being states and that, as we see below, is where capitalist and right forces now intend to take us.

Capitalism after Forty Years of Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism was unable to revive the productive economy, and exacerbated its underlying demand problem instead. It achieved only the further concentration and centralization of capital and its financialization to hitherto unprecedented levels. As a result, forty years of neoliberalism have only demonstrated that preserving the power of capital can be antithetical to the health of economies. Ultimately, moreover, these failures endanger the longevity of capitalism itself.

The contradictions of the neoliberal order could be contained for decades in part because the previous statist era had created a sufficiently robust productive economy and a sufficiently stable political order to cannibalise. These, however, were finite resources. Moreover, in the last decade, during which states socialised private debt, inflating government debt and justified the imposition of austerity, they were stretching the neoliberal order to a breaking point, economically and politically.

Economically, the financialised corporate capitalism had reached the point where the financial parasite had come close to killing its host, the productive economy. It was already emaciated with demand expansion curtailed and forced into precarious forms of production. Ever-lower cost production based on perilous supply chains served mass markets. Those with discretionary income, say the 10 or, at most 20 percent, could also have certain services–hospitality, tourism, personal care and cleaning–based on low cost labour (chiefly marginalised and immigrant groups) within the West. Of course, high-end business and financial services catered to the big corporations and the really rich, helping them siphon off more and more profits and wages issuing from the productive economy by burdening it with debt.

What cannot go on will not go on and signs of the exhaustion of this paradigm were proliferating well before the pandemic. After 2008, international capital flows swooned and, despite a recovery, remained 65 percent short of their 2007 highs, limiting opportunities for financial profit making. World trade, which had been slowing already, atrophied further as supply chains, particularly between the US and China, retracted and domestic markets became more and more important as stimuli for growth. Implosion of the Eurozone with its own economic crisis added to the stresses. Last, but not least, China and other emerging economies that were able to avoid or limit neoliberalism continued to grow, exposing the limitations of neoliberalism, providing new models and re-structuring the world order and its governance.

The lockdowns have dealt a heavy blow to the productive economy. Most severely affected are the very sectors–travel and tourism, hospitality, restaurants, sports and cultural events, personal services–that burgeoned in the inegalitarian political economy of neoliberalism. They offered more and more to those that already had a great deal and enticed lower income earners into downmarket versions of such luxury consumption, often on debt. With these productive corporations–airlines, hotels–now drawing down, rather than adding to, their financial assets, the financial system has lost a major part of its foundation. Without it, all the willingness of central bankers to come to the aid of the financial sector is irrelevant, putting the future of (financialised) capitalism in doubt.

Politically, everywhere, the discontents of neoliberalism, which the left proved unwilling and unable to mobilise, led to the rise of right-wing populism and the election of populists such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. This rise of right-wing populism revealed a most pertinent contradiction of capitalism today. On the one hand, it has no alternative to neoliberal ideology. On the other, it was never easy to win elections with it. The election of political outsiders on a wave of discontent against neoliberalism in the Anglo-American heartland of capitalism was, if not the last, the penultimate straw. It has complicated the access of big corporate capital to political power, particularly that of the big internet, pharmaceutical and defence industries. While the likes of Trump and Johnson are as right-wing as they come, they know that the neoliberal establishment, conservative or social democratic, cannot win elections. They have managed to cobble together the only electoral coalitions that any right can win. They know that, to maintain them, it is necessary to be seen to reject aspects of neoliberalism, if not to actually reject them.

The Emergence of Pseudo-Philanthropic Neoliberalism?

The neoliberal establishment must today operate on this difficult terrain. It has certainly been busy. However, success is far from guaranteed: there are many obstacles to navigate.

The lockdowns have created winners and losers within the capitalist class—to take some obvious examples, airlines, oil companies and hotels are suffering while supermarkets and internet-based companies have never had it so good. This will inevitably mean that different groups of capitalists will be pulling in different directions, if not entering in direct conflict, leading to historically unprecedented disarray within the metropolitan capitalist class.

Between these extremes are most of other firms and there are strong signs that vast swaths of the capitalist class are no longer confident about the future and were not well before there was any trace of the novel coronavirus. One indication was the unprecedented spate of corporate CEO resignations. The first 10 months of 2019 witnessed, according to NBC news, a record 1,332 resignations of CEOs, despite the stock markets continuing their historic upward trend. The trend continued into 2020 when a record 219 CEOs resigned in January alone and Fortune magazine dubbed 25 February 2020 ‘the Great CEO exodus of 2020’ when a record four CEOs of major companies, Disney, Salesforce, MasterCard and Uber, all resigned on the same day. The captains of industry were not only abandoning their ships in huge numbers, they were, unusually, doing so while stock markets were still soaring. They clearly knew something. The Financial Times reported on a second trend: the extensive insider stock selling that took place throughout 2019, estimating that it would reach a 20-year high, just surpassing that in 2007, while Bloomberg reported the trend continuing into 2020. This reversed the trend of stock buybacks since 2009.

Of course, amid this the usual cozy relationships between the state and corporations were also evident. In March 2020, it was reported that “a number of [US] senators sold their stock holdings after being briefed about the coronavirus and the massive impact it will have upon the economy, jobs and the stock market. While telling the American public that there wasn’t much to worry about, they bailed out of their stock holdings to avoid large losses”. Jeff Bezos went one better, selling $3.4 billion worth of his own stock in Amazon just before markets fell, presumably knowing he could further profit from buying them back at bargain prices before the Federal Reserve’s intervention sent stock prices back up.

In this quite complex picture, at least one major force appears to know the only path along which neoliberalism can now advance: towards an ever-closer state-corporate embrace sanctified by the discourse of philanthropy and public welfare. Its success is far from guaranteed. Nevertheless, its attempts are shaping governmental responses to the novel coronavirus and wish to shape the post-pandemic new normal.

Corporate philanthropy is an old game, dating back, in the US, to Andrew Carnegie and continuing into the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Through it, US capitalists have sought to shape politics, society, culture and foreign policy. Neoliberalism has boosted the power of giant corporations further, brining corporate philanthropy to its peak–the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is its latest and largest iteration.

Many distinguish corporate philanthropy from the more recent idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The former refers to corporate activities that do not concern the primary profit-making activities of a corporation–say an airline sponsoring Jazz Festivals or aiding the search for cancer cures. The latter denotes a promise by corporations to act responsibly with regard to their core business activities by recognising the ‘externalities’–such as environmental degradation or addictions–they produce and deal with them.

CSR is the counterpart to the trends toward deregulation and regulatory capture, justifying both with the claim that corporations need not be regulated by the state and can be relied on to police their own activities and curb their own excesses and externalities. While, undoubtedly, there are differences between corporate philanthropy and CSR, what unites them is a common drive, since the advent of corporate capitalism in the late-nineteenth century, toward extending the political control of private corporations over society, culture and politics.

Many have thought of CSR as being about ‘good corporate citizenship’ given that modern law considers corporations, no matter how large they are or how many people they employ, individuals. Many others are bolder. They argue that corporations, to whom more and more core governmental functions have been contracted out–not only the running of hospitals or garbage collections or road building and maintenance, but also core government functions such as the running of prisons, military activities the adjudication of justice, the collection of statistics–are more akin to governments, that they are already governing citizens alongside elected governments. Given the hollowing out of democracy in the neoliberal period, the lack of accountability of governments, this idea does not appear as far fetched as it should to many. Clearly, arguments supporting the power of private property had come a long way. Having begun with e free competitive markets, they went through support for oligopoly and outright monopoly to arrive at the point where the might—financial and political—of giant corporations is so great as to essentially beg the question whether the vocation of government is not thrust on them.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation combines corporate philanthropy and the drive to advance ‘socially responsible corporate power’. It has long been working to promote the full range of public-private partnerships that have proved so lucrative to capital, particularly big corporate capital, in the name of addressing human welfare. It has made world hunger a profit opportunity for agribusiness and its patented products such as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). It has promoted financial sector interests in the guise of ‘financial inclusion’ and digitalization of payments to eliminate cash. Most relevantly, it has promoted Big Pharma and other parts of the medical industrial complex in the name of protecting humanity from viral diseases. The Foundation works with private capital, universities and friendly governments to advance its causes.

India, where the Gates Foundation has been involved since 2002, is a veritable house of its horrors. GMO seeds have long been sold there, and entire constituencies of scientists mobilised in their favour, allegedly to help Indian farmers and end hunger, but have only impoverished them, and often driven them to suicide, while enriching agribusiness corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill. India’s great demonetization disaster of late 2016 constituted the brutally sudden and sweeping imposition of the policy of digitization of payments urged on by Bill Gates for many years when it suited the fascist government of India to impose for its own reasons at that time. Bill Gates cheered on the Modi government, claiming the (corporate) gains would be worth the (poor’s) pain and unmindful of the economic mayhem his policies were causing. India was yet to recover from the economic mayhem it caused when the pandemic arrived. The government now imposed another brutal measure, this time a country wide-lockdown with four hours notice. Everyone has, by now, seen the images of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers crowding bus stations and walking in human caravans, returning home to villages hundreds if not thousands of kilometres away from cities that were never home in the first place.

In these vignettes, we see he outlines of this new phase of neoliberalism. Productive monopoly capital will produce high-priced patented products for governments, transformed from ‘consumer of last resort’ to consumer-in-chief now that four decades of neoliberalism and its squeeze on working class and petty and peasant producers’ incomes has left little in terms of a wider market, at least for Western metropolitan capitalism. Governments will distribute these goods ‘free’ to people around the world, but they will actually have paid with their taxes. Naturally, these products must be justified as being necessary, often, as in the case of medicines or vaccines, urgently so, when, in reality their value may be dubious, if not positively destructive. In this scenario, financial capital can look forward to profiting from lending to governments to enable them to buy these high priced products from productive corporations. If Bill Gates and his ilk were to prevail, they would inaugurate a new phase of neoliberalism, pseudo-philanthropic neoliberalism’, and scale new heights of hypocrisy.

The operative word, however, is if. Powerful though they are, attempts to salvage neoliberalism from its own contradictions face too many headwinds. Consider Event 201. It was a pandemic simulation held by the Gates Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the World Economic Forum on October 18, 2019. It published seven recommendations regarding national, international, public and private, economic and media preparedness and coordination. The central message was that they would involve “unprecedented levels of collaboration between governments, international organizations, and the private sector”. While assuming a horrific 65 million deaths (at the time of writing the official worldwide count remains well below half a million), the Malthusian participants of Event 201 assumed that the world economy, its supply chains and financial system would remain largely intact. Only some sectors, such as travel and tourism would be badly affected.

Amid all this the interlocutors⁠—business, academic and philanthropic, government, international and military leaders⁠—as depicted in the heavily edited videos, the only publicly available record of the simulation, discuss how they are going to save the (remaining) world together; or rather with corporations in the lead. The greed and fear are barely concealed under the saccharine humanitarian concern. Undoubtedly, these interests are today directing as much government largesse their way as possible, while touting the merits of corporate science, technology and managerial nous. How far they can go is another matter. Western neoliberal governments are already indebted and many others are quite wary and even hostile. The financial markets, which have an important role in this scenario, have been shown to have little bottom other than Federal Reserve money creation. Worst of all, more and more ordinary people are wise to the disasters they have engineered in the past. The contradictions can only mount.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La Cepal llama a los países latinoamericanos a crear una renta básica como paso previo al ingreso universal

La renta básica sigue ganando adeptos a marchas forzadas. El brazo de Naciones Unidas para el desarrollo económico en América Latina y el Caribe (la Cepal) ha llamado este martes a los Gobiernos de la región a crear un ingreso de emergencia que permita a los sectores más golpeados de la población a sobrevivir durante el tiempo que dure la crisis del coronavirus. Esta renta, que equivaldría a la línea de la pobreza (143 dólares para la media regional) y tendría una duración inicial de seis meses, la cobrarían inicialmente los 215 millones de personas (la tercera parte de la población) que están por debajo del umbral de la carestía e iría ampliándose en el medio plazo. A futuro, sin embargo, debería ser el germen de un ingreso básico verdaderamente universal, que cobrarían todos los habitantes de la región.

“Es lo que recomendamos a los países que hagan en este momento: los Gobiernos deben garantizar transferencias monetarias temporales para satisfacer las necesidades básicas y sostener el consumo de los hogares. Es la salida, al menos mientras no haya actividad económica”, ha subrayado la secretaria ejecutiva del organismo, Alicia Bárcena, en una teleconferencia desde Santiago de Chile. En la región ya hay 23 países que han puesto en marcha programas de transferencias directas a los sectores más vulnerables, pero los montos y las coberturas distan mucho de ser suficientes. “Son medidas importantes, pero debemos hacer un esfuerzo adicional”.

El coste de la medida propuesta por la Cepal varía enormemente en función del grupo de población que vaya a recibir la transferencia mensual y del periodo de tiempo durante el cual esté en vigor. Si se restringiese a las personas en situación de pobreza durante medio año, como recomienda el organismo en un primer momento, sería del 3,4% del PIB; si fuese universal (para todos los ciudadanos), ascendería hasta el 9,8% pero permitiría también revivir una demanda agregada que pasa por sus horas más bajas. La importancia de este ingreso de emergencia estriba, sobre todo, en la alta preeminencia de la pobreza —que crecerá con la pandemia— y en la elevada informalidad, que afecta a más de la mitad de los latinoamericanos. “El objetivo estratégico, de largo plazo, debe ser el ingreso básico universal. Sería liberador: daría libertad a las personas para no estar en una sobrevivencia precaria. Y hay que avanzar gradualmente hacia él”, ha remarcado la jefa de la Cepal. En México, según sus cálculos, una transferencia mensual a todos los ciudadanos de 73 dólares al mes (el coste de la canasta básica alimentaria en áreas urbanas) supondría un desembolso de alrededor del 10% del PIB.

¿Es viable esta medida desde el punto de vista del gasto público? “Creemos que hay espacio para hacerlo en la región: por lo pronto podríamos echarle la mano a la evasión y la elusión fiscal, que a la región le está costando el 6,3% del PIB, la mitad del gasto social medio de los Gobiernos", responde Bárcena. La Cepal apela, además, a un nuevo pacto social y fiscal, con más progresividad en la recaudación y que incluya al 1% más rico, que abra más espacio para que los Gobiernos puedan actuar. En otras palabras: “Que los ricos paguen”. Según los últimos datos de la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos (OCDE), la brecha de recaudación entre la media regional y los países ricos se ha quedado anclada en niveles de hace una década larga.

La crisis sanitaria dispara la pobreza

En la crisis de deuda latinoamericana de la década de los ochenta, cuando la tasa de pobreza se disparó por encima del 50%, a la región le costó un cuarto de siglo volver a los niveles previos. Esta vez, con el severísimo azote del coronavirus sobre la economía, la carestía pasará al 30,3% al 34,7%, el nivel más alto en 13 años atrás: 214 millones de personas quedarían bajo este umbral si no se implementan las medidas anunciadas por los Gobiernos. En el caso de la pobreza extrema, el aumento será del 11% al 13,5%, pasando de 67 a 83 millones de personas según los datos de la Cepal. “Es algo muy grave: lo que hagamos hoy nos va a hacer o no caer en una nueva década perdida”, subraya Bárcena, que apunta a la caída en las remesas que envían a sus familias los emigrantes en Estados Unidos y en Europa como un factor claramente coadyuvante en esta dinámica.

Hasta ahora, los Gobiernos latinoamericanos han puesto en marcha cinco tipos de medidas, según los datos recopilados por la Cepal: transferencias monetarias y de alimentos (la modalidad elegida por la mayoría de países de la región, a la que están destinando, de media, el 0,7% del PIB, el doble que antes de la pandemia), transferencias en especie, suministro de servicios básicos, mecanismos de protección social para trabajadores formales y otros apoyos directos.

“Nos preocupan, sobre todo, en los trabajadores informales: son más de la mitad de la población y no pueden generar ingresos ahora ni tienen ahorros. Para los pobres las cuarentenas son más difíciles de cumplir y tienen peores consecuencias”, ha remarcado Bárcena. Más de la mitad de la población económicamente activa es informal, sin protección de ningún marco normativo. “Lo que ha caracterizado a nuestra región en los últimos años es que quienes lograron salir de la pobreza extrema lo hicieron para La Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe ha llamado a los Gobiernos de la región a crear un ingreso de emergencia que permita a los sectores más golpeados de la población a sobrevivir durante el tiempo que dure la crisis del coronavirus. Esta renta, que equivaldría a la línea de la pobreza (143 dólares para la media regional) y tendría una duración inicial de seis meses, la cobrarían inicialmente los 215 millones de personas (la tercera parte de la población) que están por debajo del umbral de la carestía e iría ampliándose en el medio plazo.ingresar en estratos pobres no extremos y bajos no pobres", ha destacado la secretaria ejecutiva del ente. “Hubo movilidad social alrededor de los años 2000, pero a raíz de esta pandemia vamos a ver un retroceso muy importante, con un incremento de los estratos extremadamente pobres”.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La caída de volumen de comercio mundial y los precios de commodities

Un gran número de empresas han parado por la pandemia de COVID-19 y las perspectivas económicas actuales son negativas para la economía global. En cuanto al comercio internacional, la guerra comercial debilitó los flujos comerciales del mundo en los últimos dos años. A esto, se suma el brote de COVID-19 que ha mermado aún más esta tendencia negativa. Las cadenas productivas internacionales se han fracturado, ya que China es el principal productor en el comercio internacional, el principal exportador y el segundo mayor importador del mundo. Igualmente es el eslabón central de cinco ramas productivas: farmoquímica, automotriz, aeronáutica, electrónica y telecomunicaciones; y de algunas de las principales cadenas de suministros en el mundo. http://obela.org/analisis/coronavirus-un-riesgo-mayor-para-el-mundo-que-para-china.

Esta circunstancia se expresa, principalmente de dos formas, desde un sentido financiero y un sentido real. En el plano financiero se ha visto un desplome de las bolsas de valores por las perspectivas adversas que se prevén en el sector real. Para paliar los efectos negativos previsibles, el gobierno estadounidense aprobó una inyección de liquidez por parte de la Reserva Federal estadounidense (FED) incluso superior a la ejecutada en la crisis de 2008-2009. Asimismo, redujeron la tasa de interés (Federal funds rate) a niveles mínimos (entre 0 y 0.25%) que en términos reales son negativas. el 15 de marzo de 2020; y se inyecta liquidez al sistema mediante la compra de deuda pública por aproximadamente 700,000 millones de dólares. Destaca también dos billones de dólares aprobados por el senado estadounidense para pagos directos a personas sin ingresos, mejorar la amplitud del seguro de desempleo, y fortalecer los servicios médicos básicos. Asimismo, la FED ha ampliado recientemente la línea crediticia de swaps de divisas, para estabilizar los tipos de cambio de sus principales socios ante una caída potencial de sus monedas. Entre estos están Corea, Japón, México, Reino Unido, Suiza, Unión Europea, Canadá, Australia, Dinamarca, Suecia y Brasil. China también ha introducido un mecanismo de swaps en renminbi con sus principales socios en Asia.

Una reducción en la tasa de interés de la FED en el pasado significó un efecto inverso en los precios de los commodities en lo que se conoce como un efecto de arbitraje. Esta vez, dadas las perspectivas adversas de crecimiento de las economías se espera menor demanda de los insumos y por tanto los precios futuros de las materias primas han bajado en vez de subir. Sin embargo, el rescate financiero parece estar cambiando la tendencia de precios sin cambiar la estructura de demanda real de los commodities físicos. La tendencia de los precios de los principales commodities es descendente desde el 2011, con un leve respiro cuando comenzaron a bajar las tasas de interés. Sin embargo, los precios nunca se recuperaron y ahora se encuentran en retroceso camino a niveles menores que entonces.

Esta tendencia no ha cambiado a pesar de la bajada en la tasa de interés a niveles negativos. Ante la perspectiva de perdida de demanda real de insumos, la reacción en la bolsa de valores tras el anuncio de la inyección de dinero, no ha sido evidente sobre precio de los commodities. La tendencia a la baja continúa para la mayor parte de los commodities. Únicamente el oro mantiene una tendencia creciente. Destaca recientemente la baja en el precio del petróleo, en el que los conflictos entre Arabia Saudita, Rusia y los productores de petróleo y gas esquisto de Estado Unidos han resultado en un aumento de la producción Árabe Saudí y rusa y bajado los precios del crudo, colocando a la industria petrolera americana en dificultades.

Como consecuencia del cierre de la producción de China y la suspensión de entregas para las cadenas globales de valor y como insumos intermedios, muchos más países han parado buena parte de su producción. Con esto el volumen de comercio se ve disminuido. El grafico debajo muestra 15% de caída en lo que va del 2020.1

El comercio internacional está sufriendo tanto en las exportaciones como en las importaciones. Un menor precio de los commodities impacta directamente en economías primario-exportadoras, como la mayoría de las latinoamericanas; asimismo, la fractura actual de las cadenas productivas limita las importaciones de gran parte del mundo y paraliza a las economías de la Cuenca de Caribe que maquilan insumos chinos para bienes finales del mercado estadounidense.

En el mundo se han lanzado planes de rescate económico no vistos desde la crisis de 2008-2009, que van desde créditos a pequeñas empresas, así como reducciones de jornadas y condonación de impuestos; sin embargo, el deterioro en el volumen de comercio internacional es un factor muy significativo, que ni bancos centrales, o estímulos fiscales pueden corregir con mayor liquidez, ni con algún otro programa de rescate. No surtirá efecto para estimular el crecimiento económico si no hay insumos en el mundo real. La liquidez inyectada permite mantener a flote empresas que no están operando, pero no permite reactivar la producción porque se encuentra detenida en China y la economía mundial está eslabonada hacia dicho país. Las cadenas y los insumos productivos para mercados como el estadounidense están detenidos y las repuestas productivas no son suficientes hasta el momento. La inyección de liquidez muy probablemente terminará en las bolsas como en el 2008-2009.

La economía mundial muestra la parte más vulnerable de las cadenas productivas, la completa interdependencia que se tiene en el comercio internacional y la falta de sustitutos en por lo menos cinco ramas clave; también da muestra de lo limitada que es la capacidad de respuesta ante una reducción de la producción material. Tomando esto en cuenta sumado a la guerra comercial, parece que la globalización estrenada en 1990 está llegando a su final.

 

1 El volumen es medido por este índice a partir del rendimiento del transporte marítimo que es la principal vía para el comercio internacional.

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La economía latinoamericana se contraerá entre un 1,8% y un 5,5% este año por el avance de la pandemia

La cascada de revisiones a la baja en el crecimiento económico previsto por el avance de la pandemia del coronavirus toma proporciones escalofriantes. El último organismo en sumarse ha sido, este jueves, el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID), que prevé una caída del PIB de América Latina y el Caribe de entre un 1,8% y un 5,5% este año. La revisión del escenario económico base no se queda ahí: el organismo con sede en Washington augura una reducción total de entre seis y 14 puntos porcentuales sobre la expansión inicialmente prevista hasta 2022. “La región va a sufrir un choque de proporciones históricas”, subraya su economista jefe, Eric Parrado, que urge a los países de la región a “preservar el corazón productivo" con apoyos a los colectivos vulnerables que han perdido sus principales fuentes de ingresos e incentivos y liquidez a empresas para "aumentar las oportunidades de una recuperación rápida”.

En sus previsiones desveladas este jueves, los técnicos del BID contemplan cuatro escenarios en función de la magnitud del impacto económico que sufran los dos mayores socios comerciales de la región (China y Estados Unidos) y del seísmo de precios sobre los activos financieros a escala global: moderado (con una caída del PIB regional del 1,8% este año y de 6,3 puntos porcentuales sobre el escenario base para 2020, 2021 y 2022), fuerte (-3% y 9,6 puntos, respectivamente), severo (-3,9% y 12,3 puntos) y extremo (-5,5% y la friolera de 14,4 puntos). En todos los casos, el Banco contempla que la caída en los PIB chino y estadounidense se circunscriban al primer y segundo trimestre del año en curso, con una recuperación en el tramo final del ejercicio o principios de 2021.

El modelo parte de una estimación basada en datos históricos —aunque el ente reconoce que la economía vive hoy una situación “sin precedentes”— y dos características distintivas: que América Latina y el Caribe “suele tardar en recuperarse de choques fuertes aunque el resto del mundo se reponga con relativa rapidez” y que, “si bien puede haber cierto repunte en China o en las economías avanzadas y las tasas de crecimiento pueden superar la tendencia anterior durante algunos trimestres, esto no ocurre en ninguno de los escenarios” en el caso latinoamericano.

Por subregiones, el golpe será especialmente intenso en el cono sur (excluido Brasil), donde el desplome en la cotización de las materias primas y la caída en los volúmenes a exportar lastrarán y mucho su crecimiento en los próximos años. Tras él, México sufrirá por su estrecha vinculación con EE UU —está integrado en un número no menor de cadenas de valor de la todavía primera potencia mundial— y por el desplome del mercado petrolero en los últimos tiempos. A renglón seguido, Brasil y la región andina sufrirán una dentellada menor, y Centroamérica y el Caribe (muy poco dependientes de la venta de productos básicos) tendrán en los menores flujos de turismo y remesas los principales canales de contagio. El BID, sin embargo, apostilla que su análisis considera “únicamente” los choques externos y no los de oferta que puedan derivarse de los confinamientos y los cierres de empresas. “Seguramente habrá repercusiones adicionales”, augura.

En el plano de la respuesta política a la crisis, el Banco Interamericano aboga por, en esta primera fase, priorizar la inversión en salud para evitar que los sistemas sanitarios “se vean desbordados” y “proporcionar alivio” a los hogares más vulnerables a las medidas de distanciamiento social impuestas en la región para tratar de frenar el avance del virus. También apoyar a las empresas para “reducir al mínimo el aumento del desempleo” y “evitar la separación entre las empresas y sus empleados y las costosas quiebras y liquidaciones”.

Con todo, el prestamista regional reconoce que en el plano fiscal, a diferencia de las economías avanzadas —que tienen los tipos de interés en mínimos históricos y “pueden sostener sus economías durante un período prolongado con programas muy grandes y sin amenazas significativas a su estabilidad económica”—, el bloque emergente, al que pertenece América Latina, no está en una posición “tan privilegiada”. En esas circunstancias, añaden desde el BID, es “extremadamente importante” priorizar las medidas y asegurar que tienen el mayor rendimiento. “En este nuevo escenario, es fundamental mejorar la eficiencia del gasto, dirigiendo ese gasto de manera más precisa para beneficiar a los pobres, a los trabajadores informales y a los necesitados durante esta crisis”, zanjan los economistas del organismo. Vienen curvas en todo el mundo y la región está en una situación especialmente comprometida.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La financiarización de la crisis del COVID19

La crisis económica que acompaña al Coronavirus y su crisis sanitaria han generado desplomes de Bolsa de Valores que no se habían visto nunca. El declive ha sido más marcado que el ocurrido entre 1929-31 y más profundo. El despeñe de las bolsas apretó el botón de pánico de los Bancos Centrales de las economías avanzadas. Aterrorizados por un desplome total de todos los valores que generaría problemas de quiebras bancarias y financieras, entraron al rescate. La solución inmediata fue inyectar al sistema financiero en EEUU, lo cual fue reproducido por el BCE y el Banco de Inglaterra. Se trataba de inducir a que los bancos metieran ese dinero en las bolsas y de este modo las estabilizaran.

En EEUU, entre el 25 de febrero y el 23 de marzo, los mercados financieros habían perdido más del 30% del valor de sus activos y la perspectiva era peor. El 23 de marzo la FED anunció una nueva medida de más de un billón de dólares, con lo que acumuló una inyección de más 3 billones. Con esto consiguió frenar la caída del mercado financiero, (ver el grafico) y registrar el mejor rendimiento de sus Bolsas desde 1938. Al revés, la economía estadounidense acumula, desde febrero de 2020, más de 27 millones de empleos perdidos, el más alto en toda su historia. Entonces, de manera antitética e irracional, la economía que tiene proyectado perder -5.9% de su PIB y con creciente desempleo, tiene una recuperación de bolsa.

De acuerdo con el más reciente número sobre Perspectivas de la economía mundial del Fondo Monetario Internacional, publicado en abril, el impacto del COVID19 en la economía mundial será de una contracción de -3% en el crecimiento económico. Se estimó una caída de -6.1% para las economías avanzadas, con contracciones más fuertes en Italia, -9.1%; España, -8%; Francia -7.2%; Alemania, -7.0%; y Reino Unido, -6.5%. Se estima que América Latina y el Caribe se contraerán en -5.2%, con efectos más duros en México -6.6%; Ecuador -6.3%; Argentina -5.7%; y Brasil -5.3%. En general, como muchos ya han reconocido, se trata de la crisis más grande en la historia del capitalismo.

En cualquier caso, aunque la mayor parte de las medidas de creación de liquidez monetaria se ha destinado al sostenimiento de los rendimientos financieros, éstas sí tienen impacto en la economía real, aunque no en la misma proporción, en la medida que están dirigidas a refinanciar de deudas de negocios cerrados o con ventas caídas. Adicionalmente hay un gasto fiscal incrementado que incluyen la transferencia directa de ingreso a los hogares y, en casos ejemplares como Chile, España, a la edificación de un ingreso mínimo vital universal garantizado. Esto garantiza el acceso a medios de subsistencia a la población, permite la adopción de las medidas de distanciamiento y promueve la reactivación del mercado interno. El tema pendiente es la promoción de la inversión y la producción reales.

Sin embargo, no todas las economías tienen esta capacidad fiscal, monetaria y financiera para implementar dichas medidas. El COVID19 también ha manifestado todas las asimetrías existentes entre los países desarrollados y aquellos con inferiores niveles de desarrollo. Más de treinta años de disminución de la participación del Estado, de privatización de servicios públicos y, para el caso, de abandono de los sistemas de salud gratuitos, provocaron una inmensa dificultad en la capacidad de contención de esta y cualquier crisis sanitaria.

La globalización de la producción y el comercio tendió cadenas productivas hacia los países con menores costos de fuerza de trabajo y preferencias fiscales. Esta lógica implicó que la condición del trabajo en estos países se haya desenvuelto sobre la informalidad y la desaparición de derechos laborales: seguro de desempleo, incapacidad laboral, ahorro para el retiro, seguridad social, servicios médicos. Bajo estas condiciones no existen garantías laborales, seguro de desempleo universal, prestaciones sociales pagado, etc. En América Latina, por ejemplo, más del 53% de los trabajadores están en el sector informal, y cerca del 38% de la población vive debajo de la línea pobreza y 11% en pobreza extrema. De ahí que las medidas de distanciamiento social y paro laboral sean tan difíciles de implementar y sostener por largos periodos. De allí también, que sea tan urgente el seguro de desempleo universal.

La interrogante sobre el rescate instantáneo de la bolsa de valores y del sector financiero frente a un incontrolable desempleo, abre la interrogante sobre la importancia que tiene el sector financiero para los tomadores de decisiones y definidores de políticas. A la inversa, habla sobre el segundo lugar que tiene el seguro de ingreso universal y los mecanismos de redistribución del ingreso que podrían asistir en la recuperación de la demanda agregada en estos tiempos aciagos.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La pandemia amenaza con dejar entre 14 y 22 millones de personas más en pobreza extrema en Latinoamérica

Del bajo crecimiento a la recesión, sin solución de continuidad. El coronavirus ha transformado el sombrío horizonte económico en América Latina en el peor en más medio siglo, como recuerda a EL PAÍS el jefe del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) para la región, Alejandro Werner. El brazo económico de Naciones Unidas para el desarrollo del subcontinente, la Cepal, se ha sumado este viernes al pesimismo sobre el frenazo de la actividad a escala global y sobre el golpe que va a hacer en una región siempre expuesta a los vaivenes de las materias primas, la manufactura, el turismo y las remesas. El choque será especialmente fuerte en una métrica clave del desarrollo social: la pobreza extrema. Según las cifras del organismo, si el avance de la pandemia provocase una caída del 5% en el ingreso medio de la población activa, el número de latinoamericanos en pobreza extrema pasaría de los 67,5 millones actuales a 82 millones. Si la merma de ingresos para la población económicamente activa fuese del 10%, esa cifra se dispararía hasta los 90 millones de personas.

Incluso antes de la llegada del Covid-19, la región no iba en buena dirección para acabar con la lacra de la pobreza extrema una década vista, tal como marcaba la hoja de ruta de la ONU. Tras una década larga de mejora, la tasa de población en situación de carestía extrema en América Latina —de por sí la región más desigual del mundo— lleva algo más de un lustro encadenando aumentos sobre unas bases ya muy altas: del mínimo de 2012 (8,2%) se ha pasado hasta superar con creces el doble dígito. El bajo crecimiento y la menor pujanza redistributiva de muchos Gobiernos de la región ya se habían dejado sentir en los últimos tiempos en un indicador clave del avance social, pero la pandemia es la puntilla: sin el efecto Covid-19, este indicador habría alcanzado el 10,7% a finales de este año; con el coronavirus ya en el mapa de riesgos, se disparará hasta el 13,3%.

En el nuevo escenario, los cálculos más optimistas (que contemplan una reducción de la desigualdad del 1,5% y un aumento del PIB por habitante del 5%) apuntan a una pobreza extrema en el entorno del 2,9% en 2030; y en el más pesimista (sin cambio en el patrón distributivo y con un crecimiento per cápita del 1%), ligeramente inferior al 9%. Pero la sacudida del virus sobre los cimientos mismos de la economía es la puntilla: hoy el cálculo más optimista apunta a una pobreza extrema del 5,7% de la población en 2030 y en el más pesimista, el 11,9%.

“El mundo se enfrenta a una crisis sanitaria y humanitaria sin precedentes en el último siglo”, ha subrayado este viernes la secretaria ejecutiva de la Cepal, Alicia Bárcena, en la presentación de un monográfico sobre las secuelas económicas y sociales del virus en el subcontinente. “El mundo no va a ser el mismo después de esta pandemia y la reactivación económica va a tomar su tiempo. No es una crisis financiera, sino de salud y bienestar. Y va a ser imprescindible el rol del Estado y no el del mercado: es el Estado, lo público, lo que nos va a sacar de esta crisis. No podemos volver a transitar por los mismos caminos que no han traído a estas grandes brechas”, ha dicho desde Santiago de Chile. “Estamos ante un cambio de época, de paradigma. Y tenemos que cambiar nuestro modelo de desarrollo”.

En el plano macroeconómico, la Cepal prevé un golpe múltiple para América Latina, fundamentalmente a través de seis canales: la disminución de la actividad económica en sus principales socios (Estados Unidos, Europa y China), abaratamiento de las materias primas, interrupción de las cadenas mundiales de valor, menor actividad turística, reducción de las remesas e intensificación de la aversión al riesgo en los mercados mundiales. “Estamos ante una profunda recesión”, ha alertado. Todavía es pronto para poner cifras, pero la Cepal cree que la previsión inicial de impacto, del 1,8% del PIB, ya se ha quedado obsoleta. “Si le sumamos el impacto que está teniendo en EE UU y Europa, más allá de China, ya hablamos del 3% o el 4%”. Aunque la dentellada económica de las medidas de distanciamiento social va a ser fuerte, Bárcena ha hecho un llamamiento a mantener o aumentar las medidas aplicadas hasta ahora: “Si no cumplimos las cuarentenas en América Latina y el Caribe el impacto económico será mucho mayor”, ha sentenciado.

Como respuesta a este nuevo panorama económico, ha dicho la jefa de la Cepal, “la integración regional es crucial para enfrentar la crisis, más allá de las diferencias políticas. Lo más urgente es reconstituir las cadenas regionales de valor para disminuir la volatilidad externa. Es, quizá, una oportunidad para mirarnos hacia dentro”. Esta vez “el salvavidas no van a ser las materias primas: el impulso va a venir de los paquetes fiscales”. Y América Latina “carece del espacio suficiente" para responder a la coyuntura con el mismo brío que las economías avanzadas. Ante esa tesitura, ha agregado, la opción más conveniente sería que la comunidad internacional apoyase a los países de renta media mediante un “recorte o reperfilamiento” de su deuda. “Necesitamos medidas que están fuera de la caja, innovadoras: necesitamos que el FMI y el Banco Mundial nos ayuden”.

En el plano puramente sanitario, Bárcena ha recordado que el nivel de camas de hospital disponibles en la región está muy lejos del de Europa, donde el coronavirus está haciendo estragos y está exhibiendo que ningún sistema de salud es lo suficientemente fuerte como para resistir un choque de esta magnitud. En la región, los únicos países que tienen un nivel de disponibilidad de camas similar al de la Unión Europea son, según los datos de la Cepal, Cuba y dos pequeñas naciones caribeñas: Barbados y San Cristóbal y Nieves. Y el gasto público sanitario medio del área supera por poco el 2,2%, la tercera parte de lo que recomienda la Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS).

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La rentabilidad de la industria petrolera

La crisis por COVID-19 ha golpeado la economía mundial, en su conjunto. En esta nota se revisarán los efectos en la industria petrolera, la caída en el volumen de oferta y demanda mundial, los precios de cotización del crudo que se cotizan en mercados internacionales, especialmente el West Texas Intermediate (WTI); también se explicará la pérdida de rentabilidad en la industria y algunas variables no contempladas relacionadas al cambio de matriz energética.

La Agencia Internacional de Energía estima que se redujo el volumen la demanda global de crudo en abril, es decir, representará valores de hace una década en el transcurso de este año. En cuanto a la oferta, se ha reducido por medio de un acuerdo de la OPEP+, que incluye otros productores como Rusia, EEUU, México y Canadá, para un recorte aproximado de 9.7 millones de barriles por día en mayo y junio, el recorte más profundo jamás acordado por los productores de petróleo del mundo. Luego, el grupo aumentará constantemente la producción hasta que el acuerdo expire en abril de 2022.

Posterior al acuerdo, los precios del WTI cayeron a niveles negativos, alcanzaron $40 dólares negativos en cuanto a la cotización del crudo futuro que venció el 21 de abril, aunque también afectó los demás índices petroleros como el Brent; lo que mostró que no hay donde depositar el petróleo, de modo que es poco probable que se vea una reactivación de la oferta pronto. La consultora noruega de energía Rystad estimó que “[…] dado el exceso de oferta del mercado desde entonces, al 21 de abril, es posible que al mercado sólo le queden unos 10 días de capacidad práctica de almacenamiento en tierra para el petróleo crudo”.

Esta circunstancia afectó de manera especial a la industria estadounidense, que no recortó significativamente su producción petrolera. Los datos semanales de la Administración de Información Energética de la primera semana de abril mostraron que la industria petrolera estadounidense seguía bombeando 13 millones de barriles de petróleo crudo al día, justo por debajo de los máximos de producción. La demanda de gasolina cayó de 9.2 m/b/d a 6.7 m/b/d entre la primera semana de abril del 2019 y la misma de abril del 2020 quedando un remanente creciente en inventario. Se estima que el mercado en cuanto a demanda se recupere cuando la contingencia pase y la actividad se regularice, sin embargo, la tendencia no deja de ser negativa para este sector. más información.

La producción es costosa, y obtener rentabilidad ante precios bajos es sumamente difícil para un gran número de empresas relacionadas con el sector. Como resultado, varias compañías petroleras se han declarado en bancarrota. Se estima que Callon Petroluem (NYSE:CPE), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), Diamond Offshore (NYSE:DO), y Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) soliciten al quiebra en el 2020.

Una recuperación del sector dependerá de la mejora del precio y de la velocidad con la que se logre. Se anticipa que los precios continúen bajos, y que el sector sufra a pesar de la recuperación del mercado. Ante las posibles bancarrotas de empresas pequeñas y medianas se vislumbra un aumento en la concentración de la oferta, así como una caída de utilidades en las empresas públicas petroleras en el sector, que no quebrarán por el apoyo de sus gobiernos.

Ante este entorno negativo en la industria, se debe vislumbrar la posibilidad de una mayor inversión en energías alternativas y consecuentemente una profundización del cambio de matriz energética. En particular se menciona a China y su liderazgo en cuanto a energía fotovoltaica, su capacidad para invertir en proyectos renovables y al auge en el sector automotriz eléctrico, todo esto, como sustituto de las energías fósiles.

Además de China, la Unión Europea ha tomado en serio las amenazas del cambio climático, por lo que se propuso abandonar la matriz energética petrolera paulatinamente. Para 2030 se espera que en promedio las energías renovables representen un valor al cercano al 30% del total consumido. Destacan países como Suecia que en 2017 obtuvo el 55% de su energía a partir de fuentes renovables, Finlandia, Letonia, Dinamarca, Austria, Montenegro y Albania obtienen energía por fuentes renovables en razón de más del 30% más información. Incluso el mayor productor de crudo a nivel mundial, Arabia Saudita ha lanzado un mecanismo para ofrecer préstamos a proyectos y a fabricantes de componentes relacionados con energías alternativas.

La industria petrolera pasa por una crisis tanto coyuntural como estructural. El mercado se recuperará en poco tiempo, aunque los precios se mantendrán bajos, así como la baja rentabilidad. La crisis actual y la baja de precios complica el escenario para la inversión en fuentes de energía alternativas, aunque estas vayan a sustituir al petróleo y otras energías fósiles en gran parte del mundo en el mediano plazo. Ante la crisis climática actual urge, no obstante, que se sigan consolidando proyectos para hacer que la energía sea limpia y el petróleo, obsoleto.

 

Descarga / English version

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

La seguridad alimenticia y la pérdida de los ingresos

Esta nota revisará el panorama alimenticio actual. Éste se complica para buena parte del mundo, en especial para países vulnerables, debido a dos factores particulares: la caída en los ingresos de la población que la pandemia y el confinamiento han producido en las economías del mundo, y la dependencia al exterior en cuanto a alimentos.

La dependencia alimenticia fue expuesta a partir de las restricciones por la pandemia, así como la falta de soberanía en la producción de alimentos de algunos países. El comercio alimenticio se ha complicado en cuanto a sus redes de distribución, lo cual repercute en alzas en los precios de los alimentos. Esta crisis pone en perspectiva el costo y las ventajas de la dependencia alimenticia de libre mercado.

El mundo ha virado hacia las restricciones alimenticias y mercados más cerrados. Destacan algunos países como Rusia, Argentina y Brasil, importantes exportadores netos de alimentos. La dependencia del exterior hace evidente la vulnerabilidad por parte de los importadores netos alimenticios, como México, Estados Unidos, China, la mayor parte de África y la Unión Europea, ante cualquier reducción del comercio internacional. En última instancia la pandemia también muestra la fragilidad de las cadenas de valor y la interdependencia en cuanto a producción y suministros en cualquier sector.

Aunque se regularice el comercio internacional, así como la distribución interna de alimentos en los países dependientes; el ingreso y el empleo han caído de manera generalizada en el mundo, esto pone en un mayor predicamento la seguridad alimenticia de la población de países vulnerables en cuanto al ingreso. La FAO menciona: “La fuerte desaceleración de todas las economías del mundo y en particular de las más vulnerables (…) hará que los países, en especial los que dependen de las importaciones de alimentos, tengan dificultades para disponer de los recursos necesarios para comprarlos”, ya que las tasas de desempleo han aumentado y las repercusiones económicas de la COVID-19 en el ingreso serán más severas.

En todo el mundo hay un impacto en el ingreso y el empleo; sin embargo, en el caso de los países con bajos ingresos el panorama es aún más crítico dado que destinan la mayor parte de sus ingresos para su alimentación, siguiendo la ley de Engel que relaciona un porcentaje menor del gasto en alimentos a medida que aumenta el ingreso. Por tanto, los países con menores ingresos tienen más en riesgo su seguridad alimentaria.

El Departamento de Asuntos Económicos y Sociales de Naciones Unidas estimó una recesión mundial cercana a una caída de 3.2 mundial para el año 2020. Para los países desarrollados se espera una caída de 5% del PIB, mientras que, en los países en desarrollo, de 0.7%. El escenario puede ser aún más adverso para los países con bajos ingresos. Mark Lowcock, secretario general adjunto de asuntos humanitarios de Naciones Unidas espera que la pobreza extrema, es decir, la población que vive con menos de 2 dólares al día aumente por primera vez en tres décadas.

Desde un esfuerzo multilateral es posible hacer frente a estas circunstancias particulares y aminorar el impacto que tendrán en los países con bajos ingresos. Se necesita otorgar un ingreso mínimo que le permita seguridad alimentaria. Para enfrentar esta cuestión Naciones Unidas planteó un programa dirigido a la ayuda humanitaria de aproximadamente 67 mil millones de dólares, que pretende hacer frente tanto a la pandemia, la inseguridad alimenticia como la pobreza en países vulnerables. Este programa recién tendría efecto a finales del 2020 y sería insuficiente para aminorar la vulnerabilidad del todo. La Oficina de Coordinación de Asuntos Humanitarios de la ONU estima que sin esfuerzos adicionales, el costo de la ayuda para el “10 por ciento de las personas más vulnerables del mundo de los peores impactos de la pandemia es de aproximadamente 90 mil millones de dólares, equivalente al 1 por ciento del paquete de estímulo global implementado por los países de la OCDE y del G20”.

Las perspectivas de seguridad alimenticia ante frente al encierro pone de manifiesto la dependencia alimentaria. En los países con menores ingresos es aún más crítica y urgente que la fragilidad de las cadenas de suministros alimenticias. La forma de producir y distribuir alimentos está en cuestión dado que la mayor parte de los países tienen capacidad de producir alimentos por sí mismos y no necesitan depender de largas cadenas de suministros para alimentar a su población. El apoyo a la producción y al consumo de alimentos locales debe considerarse como una salida a este problema e incluso un impulso al aumento de la ocupación en el sector primario.

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Latin America has weak defences against the pandemic

Health systems in Latin America, already falling short in their capacity to serve the population, especially the poor, are in a weak position and face serious risks when it comes to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Low levels of health spending and a relative scarcity of hospital beds are indicators that most countries in the region do not guarantee universal access to healthcare and risk being overwhelmed by the wave of the new coronavirus.

“Even in well-organised and robust health systems the challenges posed by a pandemic are felt swiftly, and this is even more true in weak ones like those in much of Latin America. In epidemiology, if you trail behind an epidemic, you are going to suffer havoc,” former Venezuelan health minister José Félix Oletta (1997-1999) told IPS.

Of the 630 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, 30 percent do not have regular access to health services, mainly due to geographic or income issues, according to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), an affiliate of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

That figure is in line with the proportion of people living in poverty, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which counts 185 million poor people in the region, and reports that over 10 percent of the total regional population – 68 million people – live in extreme poverty.

The regional average for health spending is under four percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and only 2.2 percent is central government expenditure, according to ECLAC and PAHO figures.

In 2014, the region’s governments committed to raising health spending to at least six percent of GDP, but only Cuba (10.6 percent), Costa Rica (6.8 percent) and Uruguay (6.1 percent) have met that goal.

The most industrialised countries spend eight percent of GDP on health, between 3,000 and 4,000 dollars per inhabitant per year, compared to about 1,000 dollars per person in Latin America. Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Uruguay spend around 2,000 dollars per person, but Haiti, Honduras and Venezuela spend less than 400.

Out-of-pocket spending (the amount people spend directly on a service) is low in Cuba, Costa Rica or Uruguay (10 to 20 percent) and very high in others such as Venezuela (63 percent), Guatemala (54 percent) or the Dominican Republic (45 percent).

These out-of-pocket payments by individuals illustrate the inadequacy of public health provision, as well as of social security or private insurance, and the fact that the poor are the most vulnerable because they sometimes refrain from seeking care that they cannot afford.

Another indicator is the number of beds available in hospitals, which does not measure the quality of infrastructure, staffing or efficiency in these facilities: the regional average is 27 per 10,000 inhabitants. A portion, sometimes very small, are intensive care beds.

But “it is not enough to have hospitals and health centres. They must properly combine human resources, infrastructure and equipment, medicines and other health technologies, to provide quality care,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne.

If the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in the region, Bolivia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela are “the Latin American countries most at risk,” according to PAHO.

IPS took a closer look at the situation in four countries to show the different weaknesses and strengths of health systems in the region.

Brazil, persistent inequality

Over the last three decades, the largest country in the region, with a population of 211 million, has developed a unique public health system, with programmes such as Mais Médicos, Farmácia Brasil Poupa Lar and Estratégia Saúde da Família. The latter is a strategy enabling a team of doctors, nurses and assistants to care for up to 3,000 people at a local level.

Mais Médicos deployed up to 18,000 doctors, more than half of them Cuban, in remote villages and isolated rural communities in Brazil. But since December 2018 the programme shrank after Brasilia severed relations with Havana and thousands of Cuban doctors were forced to return home.

The social gap is widening, since public health, with 44 percent of the hospital beds, must serve 75 percent of the population, while private clinics have more than half of the beds for 25 percent of the inhabitants.

In 2009, Brazil had 18.7 beds per 10,000 inhabitants, which dropped to 17.2 in 2017, half of them in four of its 27 states, in the wealthier southeast. It has 47,000 intensive care beds, but for every one in the public health system – 90 percent of which are occupied – there are 4.6 in the private health sector.

Brazil “is not prepared to face the coronavirus epidemic, not so much because of a lack of resources, but due to their poor distribution, the high level of inequality in terms of access to services, poor management and lack of equity,” epidemiologist Eduardo Costa, an international cooperation advisor at the National School of Public Health, told IPS.

Cuba, medicine for export

The Cuban health system, touted by the socialist government as one of the achievements of the revolution, is public and free of charge for the country’s population of 11.2 million, with 90 doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants, according to official figures.

Although there are no precise figures on how many of its 47,000 beds are for intensive care – and there are complaints from the public about delays for non-urgent surgical procedures – Health Minister José Ángel Portal said the island nation has 274 beds to treat seriously ill coronavirus patients and plans to add another 200.

One of Cuba’s flagship programmes is the international medical cooperation missions, which began in 1963 and have sent 407,000 doctors, technicians and assistants to 164 countries, providing free medical assistance to poor countries, under the format of cost-sharing to other nations, or as a source of income in some cases.

The annual income from this programme – 29,000 doctors worked in 65 countries in 2019 – exceeds six billion dollars. For the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba is setting up 14 medical brigades with 600 members, more than half of whom are women.

Chile is prepared, although it’s never enough

In Chile, a country of 18.7 million people, health coverage is public for 14 million and private for three million, and there is a separate system for the 400,000 members of the armed forces, put in place by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), which has not been modified.

All workers are required to contribute seven percent of their wages to the health institution of their choice. Those who are covered by the public health system complain about long waits of weeks or months to see a doctor and of up to a year or even more for surgery.

These were some of the shortcomings that fueled the mass protests that broke out in Chile in October 2019 and raged for months until a referendum was agreed to allow voters to choose whether to replace the constitution inherited from the dictatorship.

Chile has 22 hospital beds for every 10,000 inhabitants. That is a total of about 32,000, with 3,300 for emergencies, which the government aims to increase to 5,200 in the face of the pandemic.

Nelly Alvarado, a professor at the Diego Portales University and a public health specialist, told IPS that “the health system’s capacity is never going to be enough in the face of an unexpected situation coming from the rest of the world.”

She pointed out that critical care beds “have never been abundant either in Chile or the rest of the world. They are expensive and highly complex, because sophisticated equipment and specialised staff are required.”

Venezuela, on the verge of collapse

Official health statistics became unavailable in Venezuela over the past decade. But studies by non-governmental organisations warn that the health care system is on the verge of collapse and that the country is experiencing a “complex humanitarian emergency.”

Venezuela, a country of 30 million people, is at the bottom of the regional charts in terms of health spending and the provision of hospital beds. The NGO Doctors for Health reported that during 2019 there were power failures in 63 percent of 40 large hospitals it monitors, and water supply failures in 78 percent.

Barrio Adentro, a programme launched in 2003 that brought thousands of Cuban doctors to low-income areas, has almost disappeared and most of its premises have closed.

“We are at the bottom of a PAHO list of 33 countries in the hemisphere in terms of preparing for COVID-19,” Oletta said. “And the pandemic follows setbacks in vaccination campaigns and containment of preventable diseases that have re-emerged, such as malaria, measles and tuberculosis.”

The health crisis is part of the general collapse of basic services that has accompanied the economic recession over the past five years and hyperinflation over the past three years, driving the exodus of almost five million of Venezuela’s 32 million inhabitants. Among those who have emigrated were more than 22,000 doctors, according to the medical association.

Latin America, lagging behind in health care and spending, should heed the call of Maria Neira, WHO Director for the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health: “Something we have all forgotten is that investment in public health and health systems should not be regretted…it is always going to be a profitable investment.”

This article includes reporting by Ivet González in Havana, Mario Osava in Rio de Janeiro, and Orlando Milesi in Santiago.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Los efectos del covid-19 sobre los indices de precios

El mundo se acerca a una crisis de consumo alimenticio. Existen crecientes problemas de producción y distribución de alimentos básicos generalizados. El freno de las actividades económicas impactó a la producción manufacturera eslabonada con el mercado mundial, y de igual forma al procesamiento y distribución de alimentos. Previo a marzo del 2020, existía una tendencia de aumento en los precios de estos provocada por el brote de la fiebre porcina africana, con la consecuente eliminación de un tercio del hato porcino chino,1 y la peor plaga de langostas en el Este de África en 70 años.2 Con el freno de la producción y la comercialización en los mercados internacionales y locales a partir de marzo, cuando se declaró la pandemia, se ha incrementado la presión de precios sobre estos productos básicos.

Las primeras reacciones ante la posible escasez fue el acaparamiento. Se registraron compras de pánico en las ciudades y los supermercados restringieron la oferta. Algunos países han comenzado a restringir las exportaciones de alimentos (Kazajistán, Serbia, Vietnam). En el mercado internacional, esta tendencia ha reanimado la tensión entre los exportadores de alimentos y sus importadores. De acuerdo con la FAO, en este contexto “el riesgo de hambruna es cada vez mayor en algunos países, e incluso es posible que se produzcan varias hambrunas al mismo tiempo”.3

En ningún país se aplicaron medidas de freno o aislamiento en la producción de alimentos y bienes básicos. En cambio, se buscó que continuara la producción en los ritmos normales. Sin embargo, lo que se observa en el mercado no es escasez por falta de producción, sino por problemas en los canales de distribución. La oferta de alimentos, por el lado internacional, se interrumpió al suspenderse los canales de distribución. Por el lado nacional, los canales de distribución entre el campo y la ciudad también se detuvieron e igualmente impactó la oferta. El efecto combinado ha sido un alza en los precios de alimentos y en los bienes de primera necesidad que, sin embargo, no se ve reflejado en los índices de precios al consumidor, en general, debido a la fuerte deflación de los combustibles y otras materias primas.

La fuerte baja del precio de los combustibles es una de las expresiones más claras del efecto que ha tenido el paro productivo sobre el mercado energético. La contracción económica mundial, disminuye el consumo y los precios internacionales, mientras aumenta los inventarios. Esta condición se buscó atender con un acuerdo internacional de reducción de la producción, promovido por EEUU con apoyo de la OPEP para controlar el precio, pero fue insuficiente. Los paros casi generalizados de las actividades productivas mundiales aceleraron la acumulación de crudo y saturó los inventarios.

El mercado de materias primas también observa una tendencia de precios descendente de largo plazo, desde el 2014, acelerada en los tiempos de covid19, con el índice Bloomberg de precios de materias primas que acumula más de 23% de caída entre enero y mayo del 2020. El impacto sobre los precios ha sido que la baja del precio de los combustibles y del resto de los commodities han servido para mantener bajos los precios de los bienes de consumo. Esto oculta en los índices generales de precios al consumidor que los precios de los alimentos han comenzado a subir.

En este escenario, las perspectivas económicas son más duras para los países mono-exportadoras, dependientes del mercado mundial para alimentarse. El desarrollo de medios de transporte, desde la década de los ochenta, creó las condiciones para el comercio y transporte rápido de productos perecederos desde cualquier parte del mundo. Con la racionalidad económica de libre mercado, se volvió más rentable el libre comercio internacional de alimentos y se abandonó la noción de seguridad alimentaria. Ahora se ven las consecuencias sobre los precios y los riesgos en la falta de suministros. Harán falta políticas que resuelvan el abasto a los mercados y, sobre todo, atiendan la fuerte caída en los ingresos de hogares y garanticen el consumo mínimo necesario.

1 Ver: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/opinion/china-swine-fever.html

2 Ver: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/26/kenya-suffers-worst-locust...

3 http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1276081/icode/

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Mayor cooperación financiera internacional es crucial para que países de América Latina y el Caribe puedan enfrentar la “tormenta perfecta” desatada por la crisis del COVID-19

Autor: 

Una mayor cooperación financiera internacional es crucial para que los países de América Latina y el Caribe puedan aumentar su espacio fiscal para enfrentar la vulnerabilidad económica, social, productiva y ambiental que arrastran desde hace años, y que se ha visto agravada por la crisis derivada del coronavirus, señaló hoy la Secretaria Ejecutiva de la CEPAL, Alicia Bárcena.

La máxima autoridad de la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) participó este martes 26 de mayo en una serie de eventos virtuales de alto nivel en donde advirtió que los países de la región están viviendo una “tormenta perfecta” ya que, al igual que muchas otras economías en desarrollo, no solo deben combatir los efectos actuales de la pandemia del COVID-19, sino que además enfrentan desde hace tiempo una combinación de condiciones internas adversas y crecientes limitaciones externas que han aumentado su vulnerabilidad en diversos ámbitos.

Alicia Bárcena indicó que la región está sufriendo la mayor recesión económica del siglo, el aumento del desempleo, el incremento de personas en situación de pobreza en un contexto de graves brechas estructurales, todo en un ambiente de mayor restrición externa y menor liquidez disponible para las economías emergentes.

Durante el seminario virtual “Una crisis lleva a la otra: Desafíos y respuestas de las economías emergentes en los tiempos del COVID” (One crisis leads to another: Challenges and responses across emerging economies in the time of COVID), organizado por el Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) de la University College London (UCL) -dirigido por la prestigiosa economista Mariana Mazzucato- Alicia Bárcena resaltó que la actual pandemia ha puesto en evidencia los problemas estructurales de la región que se suman a los desafíos del COVID-19. El evento fue moderado por Antonio Andreoni, Profesor Asociado de Economía Industrial en la UCL y Jefe de Investigación del IIPP, y contó con la participación de Jayati Ghosh, Profesora de Economía en el Centro de Estudios Económicos y Planeamiento de la Universidad de Jawaharlal Nehru en Nueva Delhi, y Richard Kozul-Wright, Director de la División de Globalización y Estrategias del Desarrollo de la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre Comercio y Desarrollo (UNCTAD), en un debate interactivo donde se abordaron los prospectos para una reactivación en línea con un nuevo pacto (deal) global que requiere mayor cooperación internacional.

“Factores internos y externos se han combinado para producir la peor contracción económica en la historia de la región (-5,3% proyectado para 2020). Pero la historia pre COVID-19 de América Latina y el Caribe tampoco fue una de crecimiento exitoso y estuvo marcada por altos niveles de desigualdad y una ausencia de cambio estructural progresivo”, declaró.

“Estamos viviendo una globalización muy injusta. Hay tremendas asimetrías a nivel global. Por eso necesitamos una asistencia especial de la comunidad internacional para enfrentar esta crisis”, enfatizó la alta funcionaria de las Naciones Unidas.

“Debemos centrarnos en la desigualdad porque queremos evitar la cultura de los privilegios. La desigualdad conspira contra la resiliencia y la forma en que estamos enfrentando la pandemia. Deberíamos tratar sus causas estructurales en nuestra región”, recalcó Bárcena.

La Secretaria Ejecutiva de la CEPAL señaló también que en un mundo interdependiente y dominado por los mercados financieros como el actual, los países no pueden construir espacio fiscal por sí solos. En otras palabras, ni siquiera el manejo fiscal más austero puede asegurar a los países en desarrollo el necesario espacio de políticas para enfrentar la escasez de liquidez internacional que está imperando en estos momentos. “Precisamente por esto es que la cooperación internacional y la asistencia financiera a los mercados emergentes es irreemplazable en las actuales circunstancias de alto endeudamiento de muchos países”, insistió.

En tanto, durante el encuentro titulado “El impacto económico y social del COVID-19 en América Latina y el Caribe”, organizado por la Escuela de Asuntos Públicos y Globales de la Universidad IE (con sede en Madrid, España), dirigida por Susana Malcorra (ex Ministra de Relaciones Exteriores de Argentina y Jefa de Gabinete del ex Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas Ban Ki-moon), Alicia Bárcena reiteró que la pandemia provocará la peor crisis económica y social de la región en décadas, con efectos perjudiciales para el empleo, la lucha contra la pobreza y la reducción de la desigualdad.

Bárcena explicó que las medidas necesarias para detener propagación del coronavirus y salvar vidas, están llevando a la pérdida de empleos (11,6 millones de desempleados más en 2020, en comparación con 2019) y reduciendo los ingresos laborales, personales y domésticos. La pérdida de ingresos afecta principalmente a la población más vulnerable y a la alta proporción de trabajadores informales. Según los últimos datos, agregó, un 54% de los trabajadores no tiene ninguna relación con empleadores, contrato o protección social. En 2018, solo el 47,4% de los empleados contribuían a los sistemas de pensiones y más del 20% de ellos vivían en la pobreza.

“Es por esto que la CEPAL propone proporcionar un ingreso básico de emergencia (IBE) equivalente a una línea de pobreza (aproximadamente 140 dólares) durante seis meses a toda la población en situación de pobreza”, dijo. Esto implicaría un gasto adicional del 2,1% del PIB para llegar a todas las personas que se encontrarán en situación de pobreza este año, declaró la Secretaria Ejecutiva de la CEPAL.

También se refirió a la necesidad urgente por parte de los países de América Latina y el Caribe de expandir su espacio fiscal actual y acceder a financiamiento en condiciones apropiadas, dado que la recaudación de impuestos de la región es muy baja, con un 23,1% del PIB en promedio, en comparación con el 34,3% del PIB para la OCDE. Dado que los impuestos directos son débiles y la evasión en la región es muy alta, la CEPAL estima que la región perdió 325 mil millones de dólares, o 6,3% del PIB, en 2017 debido al incumplimiento tributario, indicó.

“Estamos en una encrucijada civilizatoria y solo podremos salir de ella buscando soluciones globales. Esta crisis está desafiando al modelo ortodoxo. Necesitamos un nuevo modelo de desarrollo centrado en la igualdad y la sostenibilidad, y un nuevo pacto social para avanzar hacia un mundo menos fragmentado y más igualitario, más democrático y participativo, para reconstruir mejor con sostenibilidad ambiental”, enfatizó Alicia Bárcena.

Más tarde, Alicia Bárcena participó en el seminario virtual Gran Impulso para la Sustentabilidad, organizado por la CEPAL, a través de su oficina en Brasil, y Pacto Global, donde afirmó que el contexto internacional está pasando por un cambio paradigmático y hay una visión crecientemente establecida de que la combinación correcta de políticas para estimular inversiones bajas en carbono y sostenibles brinda oportunidades para el desarrollo socioeconómico.

Precisó que la CEPAL está estructurando una propuesta renovada, articulada en torno a un Gran Impulso (o Big Push) para la Sostenibilidad, un enfoque basado en la coordinación de políticas para movilizar y acelerar inversiones sostenibles, que impulsen un nuevo ciclo virtuoso de crecimiento económico, con generación de empleos e ingresos y reducción de desigualdades y brechas estructurales, mientras se mantienen y regenera la base de recursos naturales de la que depende el desarrollo, dijo.

“Muchos hablan de la nueva normalidad, pero nosotros no queremos volver a donde estábamos antes, queremos un futuro mejor. Creemos que el gran impulso para la sostenibilidad puede ser ese eje guía para una estrategia de salida sostenible de la crisis actual, al contribuir en la construcción de un estilo de desarrollo y convertirse en el motor de un ciclo virtuoso de desarrollo. Para esto, es necesario coordinar y articular políticas y actores”, destacó.

Asimismo, hoy la CEPAL participó también en la Mesa virtual de diálogo regional: “Reactivación productiva con trabajo decente”, organizado por la Oficina Regional de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) para América Latina y el Caribe, y en la cual intervino Mario Cimoli, Secretario Ejecutivo Adjunto de la Comisión, en representación de Alicia Bárcena, Secretaria Ejecutiva del organismo regional de la ONU.

Durante su intervención, Mario Cimoli señaló que si bien la región va a pasar por una recesión compleja, que va a afectar el crecimiento, el empleo, la pobreza y la desigualdad, lo importante ahora también es preocuparse por una reactivación con mejores condiciones laborales, mayor tecnología, innovación y producción.

“El mundo desde ahora en adelante, ya no va a ser igual. Debemos tener en cuenta que el comercio y las cadenas globales ya no se van a reproducir igual, por ello debemos repensar en la integración regional, no solamente en la especialización de los recursos naturales, hay que contar con mayor diversificación productiva, mayor participación del trabajo y un Estado más fuerte”, alertó la CEPAL en los eventos del día.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Post-COVID Economy May Have More Robots, Fewer Jobs and Intensified Surveillance

Spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic, global capitalism is on the brink of a new round of worldwide restructuring based on a much greater digitalization of the entire global economy and society. This restructuring began in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession but the changing social and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic will vastly accelerate the process. It is likely to heighten the concentration of capital worldwide and worsen social inequality. Enabled by digital applications, the ruling groups — unless they are pushed to change course by mass pressure from below — will turn to ratcheting up the global police state to contain the coming social upheavals.

The emerging post-pandemic capitalist paradigm is based on a digitalization and application of so-called fourth industrial revolution technologies. This new wave of technological development is made possible by a more advanced information technology. Led by artificial intelligence (AI) and the collection, processing and analysis of immense amounts of data (“big data”), the emerging technologies include machine learning, automation and robotics, nano- and biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), quantum and cloud computing, 3D printing, new forms of energy storage and autonomous vehicles, among others.

Computer and information technology (CIT), first introduced in the 1980s, provided the original basis for globalization. It allowed the emerging transnational capitalist class, or TCC, to coordinate and synchronize global production and therefore to put into place a globally integrated production and financial system into which every country has become incorporated. Just as the original introduction of CIT and the internet in the late 20th century profoundly transformed world capitalism, this second generation of digital-based technologies is now leading to a new round of worldwide restructuring that promises to have another transformative impact on the structures of the global economy, society and polity.

If the first generation of capitalist globalization from the 1980s involved the creation of a globally integrated production and financial system, the new wave of digitalization and the rise of platforms have facilitated since 2008 a very rapid transnationalization of digital-based services. By 2017, services accounted for some 70 percent of the total gross world product and included communications, informatics, digital and platform technology, e-commerce, financial services, professional and technical work, and a host of other non-tangible products such as film and music.

It is hard to underestimate just how rapid and extensive the current digital restructuring of the global economy and society is. According to United Nations data, the “sharing economy” — that is, activity mediated by platforms — will surge from $14 billion in 2014 to $335 billion by 2025. Worldwide shipments of 3D printers more than doubled in 2016, to over 450,000, and were expected to reach 6.7 million by the end of 2020. The global value of e-commerce is estimated to have reached $29 trillion in 2017, which is equivalent to 36 percent of global GDP in that year. Digitally deliverable service exports amounted in 2018 to $2.9 trillion, or 50 percent of global services exports. By 2019, global internet traffic was 66 times the volume of the entire global internet traffic in 2005, whereas global Internet Protocol (IP) traffic, a proxy for data flows, grew from about 100 gigabytes (GB) per day in 1992 to more than 45,000 GB per second in 2017. And yet the world is only in the early days of the data-driven economy; by 2022, global IP traffic is projected to reach 150,700 GB per second, fueled by more and more people coming online for the first time and by the expansion of the IoT.

The coronavirus pandemic has spotlighted how central digital services have become to the global economy. But more than shine this spotlight, the pandemic and its aftermath, to the extent that it accelerates digital restructuring, can be expected to result in a vast expansion of reduced-labor or laborless digital services, including all sorts of new telework arrangements, drone delivery, cash-free commerce, digitized finance (or fintech), tracking and other forms of surveillance, automated medical and legal services, and remote teaching involving pre-recorded instruction. The pandemic has boosted the efforts of the giant tech companies and their political agents to convert more and more areas of the economy into these new digital realms.

The giant tech companies have flourished during the contagion, their digital services becoming essential to the pandemic economy, as hundreds of millions of workers worldwide moved to remote work at home or through enhanced platforms, or became engaged in digitally driven service work, and as in-person services were replaced by remote digital services. The post-pandemic global economy will involve a more rapid and expansive application of digitalization to every aspect of global society, including war and repression.

New Capital Bloc Led by Tech, Finance and the Military-Industrial Complex

Digitalization has been spurred on by the capitalist crisis. The coronavirus was but the spark that ignited the combustibility of a global economy that never fully recovered from the 2008 financial collapse and has been teetering on the brink of renewed crisis ever since. But the underlying structural causes of the 2008 debacle, far from resolved, have been steadily aggravated. Frenzied financial speculation, unsustainable debt, the plunder of public finance, overinflated tech stock, and state-organized militarized accumulation have kept the global economy sputtering along in recent years in the face of chronic stagnation and concealed its instability. (Militarized accumulation refers to the accumulation of capital — that is, profit-making, through ever-more expansive systems of warfare, transnational social control and repression.)

There are three types of capitalist crises. The first type is cyclical, or the business cycle, involving economic downturns or recessions approximately once a decade. There were recessions in the early 1980s, the early 1990s and at the turn of the century. The second type is structural and appears about once every 40 to 50 years, and the third is systemic, which I will refer to by way of conclusion. They are called structural or restructuring crises, because their resolution involves restructuring the capitalist system. The restructuring crisis of the 1930s Great Depression was resolved through the rise of a new type of capitalism based on redistribution and state intervention to regulate the market, and led to the social welfare systems of the 20th century. The next structural crisis hit in the 1970s and led to globalization and the rise of a TCC from the 1980s and on.

A new restructuring crisis began with the 2008 financial collapse. Leading the way in this restructuring were the giant tech companies — among them Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Tencent, Alibaba, Facebook and Google, and to which are now added Zoom and other companies boosted by the pandemic. These companies have experienced astonishing growth over the past decade. Apple and Microsoft registered an astounding market capitalization of $1.4 trillion each in 2020, followed by Amazon with $1.04 trillion, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) with $1.03 trillion, Samsung with $983 billion, Facebook with $604 trillion, and Alibaba and Tencent with some $600 billion and $500 billion, respectively. To give an idea of just how rapidly these tech behemoths have grown, Google’s market capitalization went from under $200 billion at the end of 2008 to over $1 trillion at the start of 2020, or a 500 percent increase. Meanwhile, in just two years, from 2015 to 2017, the combined value of all platform companies with a market capitalization of more than $100 million jumped by 67 percent, to more than $7 trillion.

A handful of largely U.S.-based tech firms that generate, extract and process data have absorbed enormous amounts of cash from transnational investors from around the world who, desperate for new investment opportunities, have poured billions of dollars into the tech and platform giants as an outlet for their surplus accumulated capital. Annual investment in CIT jumped from $17 billion in 1970, to $65 billion in 1980, then to $175 billion in 1990, $465 billion in 2000, and $654 billion in 2016, and then topped $800 billion in 2019. As capitalists invest these billions, the global banking and investment houses become interwoven with tech capital, as do businesses across the globe that are moving to cloud computing and AI. By the second decade of the century, the global economy came to be characterized above all by the twin processes of digitalization and financialization.

The rise of the digital economy involves a fusion of Silicon Valley with transnational finance capital and the military-industrial-security complex, giving rise to a new bloc of capital that appears to be at the very core of the emerging post-pandemic paradigm. This new bloc will emerge even more powerful than it was going into the health emergency, spurring a vast new centralization and concentration of capital on a global scale. At the head of this bloc, the tech behemoths are larger financial entities than most countries in the world and are able to wield enormous influence over capitalist states. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo showcased this emerging capital-state relation when, in early May, he appointed three tech billionaires — Eric Schmidt of Google; former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates; and Michael Bloomberg — to head up a Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with plans to outsource public schools, hospitals, policing and other public services to private tech companies. Such “public-private partnerships” privatize to capital traditional state functions while converting public funds into corporate subsidies.

The third leg in this triangulated bloc of capital is the military-industrial-security complex. As the tech industry emerged in the 1990s, it was conjoined to the military-industrial-security complex and the global police state. Over the years, for instance, Google has supplied mapping technology used by the U.S. Army in Iraq, hosted data for the CIA, indexed the National Security Agency’s vast intelligence databases, built military robots, co-launched a spy satellite with the Pentagon and leased its cloud computing platform to help police departments “predict” crime. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech giants are thoroughly intertwined with the military-industrial and security complex. The rise of the digital economy blurs the boundaries between military and civilian sectors of the economy and brings together finance, military-industrial and tech companies around a combined process of financial speculation and militarized accumulation.

Worldwide, total defense outlays grew by 50 percent from 2006 to 2015, from $1.4 trillion to $2.03 trillion, although this figure does not take into account secret budgets, contingency operations and “homeland security” spending. By 2018, private military companies employed some 15 million people around the world, while another 20 million people worked in private security. The new systems of warfare, social control and repression are driven by digital technology. The market for new social control systems made possible by digital technology runs into the hundreds of billions. The global biometrics market, for instance, was expected to jump from its $15 billion value in 2015 to $35 billion by 2020.

Laborless Production and Surplus Humanity

Crises provide transnational capital with the opportunity to restore profit levels by forcing greater productivity out of fewer workers. The first wave of CIT in the latter decades of the 20th century triggered explosive growth in productivity and productive capacities, while the new digital technologies promise to multiply such capacities many times over. Specifically, digitalization vastly increases what radical political economists, following Marx, refer to as the organic composition of capital, meaning that the portion of fixed capital in the form of machinery and technology tends to increase relative to variable capital in the form of labor.

In layman’s terms, digitalization greatly accelerates the process whereby machinery and technology replace human labor, thus expanding the ranks of those who are made surplus and marginalized. One National Bureau of Economic Research report found that each new robot introduced in a locale results in a loss of three to 5.6 jobs. In 1990, the top three carmakers in Detroit had a market capitalization of $36 billion and 1.2 million employees. In 2014, the top three firms in Silicon Valley, with a market capitalization of over $1 trillion, had only 137,000 employees. This increase in the organic composition of capital aggravates overaccumulation and social polarization, which has reached unprecedented levels worldwide. As is now well-known, just 1 percent of humanity owns over half of the world’s wealth and the top 20 percent own 94.5 percent of that wealth, while the remaining 80 percent have to make do with just 5.5 percent.

The apologists of global capitalism claim that the digital economy will bring high-skilled, high-paid jobs and resolve problems of social polarization and stagnation. Yet many so-called cognitive labor and gig workers face low wages, dull repetitive tasks and precariousness. As “big data” captures data on knowledge-based occupations at the workplace and in the market and then converts it into algorithms, this labor could itself be replaced by AI, autonomous vehicles and the other fourth industrial revolution technologies. Digital-driven production ultimately seeks to achieve what the Nike Corporation refers to as “engineering the labor out of the product.” The end game in this process, although still far away, is laborless production.

A 2017 United Nations report estimated that tens if not hundreds of millions of jobs would disappear in the coming years as a result of digitalization. As an example, the report estimated that more than 85 percent of retail workers in Indonesia and the Philippines were at risk. The report also said that the spread of online labor platforms would accelerate a “race to the bottom of working conditions with an increasing precarity.” A series of International Labor Organization (ILO) reports documented these conditions. A 1998 study found already in the late 20th century, some one-third of the global labor force was under- or unemployed. The ILO then reported in 2011 that 1.53 billion workers around the world were in “vulnerable” employment arrangements, representing more than 50 percent of the global workforce. Seven years later, in 2019, it concluded that a majority of the 3.5 billion workers in the world “experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equality opportunities or scope for human development.”

Even before the pandemic hit, automation was spreading from industry and finance to all branches of services, even to fast food and agriculture. It is expected to eventually replace much professional work such as lawyers, financial analysts, doctors, journalists, accountants, insurance underwriters and librarians. AI-driven technologies are at this time becoming more widely adopted worldwide as a result of the conditions brought about by the contagion. The pandemic allows the TCC to massively push forward capitalist restructuring that it could not previously accomplish because of resistance to the digital takeover.

With heightened digitalization brought about by the pandemic, there will be tens or even hundreds of millions who lost their jobs but will not be reabsorbed into the labor force as technology takes over their former tasks. One University of Chicago study estimated that 42 percent of pandemic layoffs in the United States would result in permanent job loss. Moreover, large corporations will snatch up millions of small businesses forced into bankruptcy. Capitalists will use this mass unemployment as a lever to intensify exploitation of those with a job, to heighten discipline over the global working class and to push surplus labor into greater marginality.

The Coming Upheavals

The pandemic lockdowns served as dry runs for how digitalization may allow the dominant groups to restructure space and to exercise greater control over the movement of labor. Governments around the world decreed states of emergency and violently repressed those who violated stay-at-home orders. The lockdowns may have been necessary from the perspective of the health emergency. Yet they showcased how the TCC and capitalist states may more tightly control the distribution of labor power, especially surplus labor, by controlling movement and by locking labor into cyberspace and therefore making it disaggregated and isolated. As new digital technologies expand the cognitive proletariat and the ranks of workers in the gig economy, they also allow for a stringent surveillance and control of this proletariat through cyberspace.

Capitalist states face spiraling crises of legitimacy after decades of hardship and social decay wrought by neoliberalism, aggravated now by these states’ inability to manage the health emergency and the economic collapse. The pandemic will leave in its wake more inequality, conflict, militarism and authoritarianism as social upheaval and civil strife escalate. As the pandemic aggravates the structural crisis, the ruling groups will turn to expanding the global police state to contain mass discontent from below. Well before the contagion, the agents of this emerging global police state had been developing new modalities of policing and repression made possible by applications of digitalization and fourth industrial revolution technologies.

There has been a rapid political polarization in global society since 2008 between an insurgent far right and an insurgent left. The crisis is animating far right and neo-fascist forces that have surged in many countries around the world and will now seek to capitalize politically on the health calamity. But it is also rousing popular struggles from below, as we have seen in a wave of strikes and protests around the world. Capitalist crises are times of intense social and class conflict. Depending on how these struggles play out, structural crises may expand into the third type of crisis, a systemic one, meaning that the crisis must be resolved by moving beyond the existing socioeconomic system — in this case, capitalism.

Whether a structural crisis becomes a systemic one depends on a host of political and subjective factors that cannot be predicted beforehand. What is clear is that mass popular struggles against the depredations of global capitalism will now become conjoined with those around the fallout from the health emergency. As the world emerges from the pandemic, it will be remade, for better or worse. The battle is now underway for the post-pandemic world.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Post-COVID-19 - Should there be a New Economic Model?

A medida que nos alejamos de la pandemia COVID-19, una cosa es segura, nos enfrentamos a una importante recesión económica en el futuro, con una caída a -3% en 2020 según las proyecciones del FMI. Esto es básicamente un descenso de -6,3 puntos porcentuales desde enero de 2020

"El Gran Cierre" es la peor recesión desde la Gran Depresión, y mucho peor que la Crisis Financiera Mundial. Esto se debe principalmente a la virtual incapacitación de la productividad humana que afecta a todas las naciones y a todos los sectores simultáneamente.

Esta pandemia nos ha obligado de alguna manera a repensar sobre lo que hemos hecho mal a nuestra madre tierra, víctima de nuestro insaciable desarrollo. Cómo se ha ampliado la desigualdad en nuestra sociedad, donde el 1% más rico es el doble de rico que el 50% más pobre, lo cual fue esencialmente el resultado del sistema económico contemporáneo del capitalismo globalizado. Cuál podría ser un nuevo modelo económico que nos permitiera superar todas estas crisis y reconstruir un mundo mejor, fuerte, inclusivo, sostenible y resistente

En ese seminario el Dr. Jomo Kwame, distinguido profesor de la Universidad de Columbia y asesor superior del Instituto de Investigaciones de Khazanah, responde a la cuestión ¿Debería haber un nuevo modelo económico? en el escenario del Post-COVID-19?

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Qué ha cambiado desde la aparición del coronavirus

Desde el 31 de diciembre del 2019, que formalmente China le anunció a la OMS que tenía un virus gripal nuevo y le mostró su cadena molecular, el mundo ha pasado de tener unas predicciones de disminución de crecimiento/recesión económica a estar enfrentado a la primera contracción económica mundial desde los años 30. Cuando ocurrió la crisis del 2008, se apuntó a hacer la analogía con la de los años 30, pero fue finalmente una inmensa recesión y no una depresión propiamente. Una década más tarde enfrentamos un congelamiento de la economía en el mundo entero, fenómeno nunca antes visto. Las caídas proyectadas del PIB en todo el mundo son inéditas, precios del petróleo negativos, y bolsas de valores volátiles en extremo, hay una crisis económica mundial escondida de dimensiones no calculadas aún.

Nunca se había visto en tiempos de paz que un país cerrara sus fábricas y no embarcara sus productos ya terminados. Esta vez se congelaron la fabricación y el comercio exterior en China. La idea de cadenas globales de valor que permiten líneas de producción encadenadas globalmente es una creación de fin del siglo XX y tiene como punto de inicio la producción en China. El resultado fue que cuando cerraron las fábricas en China, se cerraron las fábricas en todo el mundo por falta de suministros y el comercio internacional se desplomó. Este es un notable primer efecto inesperado. El impacto negativo en la producción de China llevó a la caída mundial.

Tampoco se había visto nunca que todos los servicios de todos los países, unos más que otros, cerraran en simultáneo, menos Estados Unidos, Gran Bretaña y México que cerraron después o no cerraron. Esto ha conllevado que los pequeños negocios, los restaurantes, panaderías, tiendas de conveniencia, tiendas por departamentos, cierren. Campos deportivos, clubes diversos, teatros, salas de conciertos, cinemas y espacios de socialización masiva quedaron vacíos, y con ellos, la actividad económica que se movía en ese espacio. La idea que esto pasa en simultáneo en todo el mundo es impensable y al mismo tiempo es una llamada de atención de la naturaleza.

El planeta está sobrepoblado, con la naturaleza sobre explotada, con el clima cambiado, vivimos en ciudades congestionadas, producimos bienes haciéndolos cruzar los océanos, consumimos agua de otros continentes y al hacerlo, bienes van y vienen cargando virus. Hay un hábitat para que lo virus muten más agresivamente y hagan lo que han hecho siempre en la historia: ajustar a la población y llamar la atención sobre los modos de vivir. La gripe bubónica en el siglo XIV mató más del 50% de la población en las zonas afectadas que es casi todo el espacio comprendido entre la península de Crimea y el norte de España (Navarra y Cataluña). Fue un ajuste poblacional muy importante que cambió la idea de las ciudades y la forma que deberían de tener y las maneras de controlar las poblaciones de ratas y roedores.

Fue en las últimas cuatro décadas que se han observado la pandemia del VIH, del Ebola, de la fiebre aviar y porcina y ahora del COVID 19. Que en cuatro décadas haya más muertos por epidemias que en el resto de la historia dice algo sobre sobre la temperatura del planeta, sobre el movimiento de personas y bienes por el mundo, y de las maneras como se han bajado las defensas de los ciudadanos. Lo novedoso ahora es que viviremos esperando la llegada de la próxima epidemia.

La lección societal contemporánea será tener nuevas formas de contacto humano, nuevas formas de trabajo, de transporte, de hacer las compras, de tener clases y seguramente, de tener vida cultural. Las cadenas globales de valor deben de ser repensadas y las políticas de industrialización también. La salud pública como un bien público debe de regresar.

¿Es posible que los trabajos de investigación los hagan laboratorios que trabajan para la ganancia cuando lo que se está investigando es cómo prevenir enfermedades inexistentes aún, como el coronavirus hace un semestre, o existentes con pocos pacientes como la esclerosis lateral amiotrófica? Se trata de prevenir, y eso no es un negocio privado lucrativo sino un bien público. Igualmente debe de regresar la idea de la seguridad alimentaria, como concepto. La desprivatización del transporte terrestre con energía limpia es una tendencia inevitable que tiene impulso. Para el sector privado es más rentable el transporte masivo a gasolina y diésel, pero para la humanidad es más saludable el transporte limpio, más caro.

Un efecto ambiental inesperado fue que, con la suspensión del tráfico de vehículos terrestres a gasolina, de barcos a diésel y de aviones a jet fuel, la contaminación ambiental mejoró.

Ciudades tan contaminadas como Santiago, San Paulo y Lima, de pronto vieron renacer la naturaleza y aclararse el aire. Las playas se ven más limpias y la fauna regresa a sus árboles. Las noches están estrelladas nuevamente. Los delfines nadan en Venecia y los ríos bajan de los Andes transparentes. Esta ha sido una llamada de atención de que, si no cambiamos nuestro modo de vivir, producir y consumir, la siguiente pandemia será peor.

El colapso del mercado de petróleo indica que dicha fuente de energía ya no es una apuesta sólida para el futuro. Quizás indique que el cambio de matriz energética está más avanzado de lo que se viene percibiendo. Las proyecciones son de recuperación a fines del año. ¿Será? No volveremos nunca más al mundo de antes de esta epidemia. Ahora es el momento de pensar el futuro desde otro sitio.

 

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Resilience and Fragility in Global Banking Impacts on Emerging Economies

La teoría sugiere tanto la resistencia como la fragilidad de las redes bancarias. En este documento se encuentran ambas, explotando una nueva base de datos de préstamos sindicados transfronterizos a los países en desarrollo de 1993 a 2017.

Las perturbaciones se propagan a través de co-prestamistas impulsados por actores centrales, pero las perturbaciones que afectan a los bancos periféricos tienen poca repercusión. La crisis financiera mundial y la aparición de prestamistas Sur-Sur provocaron una disminución de la centralidad de la red, lo que sugiere una mayor resistencia a las perturbaciones normales.

Los bancos multilaterales de desarrollo pueden desempeñar una función catalizadora, pero su pequeño tamaño limita su capacidad para mitigar la propagación de las conmociones. La actual crisis de Covid-19 no es una conmoción normal, está afectando a los actores centrales y probablemente provocará un contagio importante.

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Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Reviving the Economy, Creating the ‘new Normal’

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 16 2020 (IPS) - The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted most economies in the world. Its full impacts will not be felt, let alone measured, until it runs its course. Many countries are still struggling to contain contagion, while the costs on both lives and livelihoods will undoubtedly have long-term repercussions.

Back to the future?
The pandemic has exposed economic vulnerabilities building up for decades, especially since the counter-revolution, against Keynesian and development economics in the 1980s, gathered pace with transnational corporation-led privatization, liberalization and globalization.

As the world become more interdependent via trade, finance and communications, inequality and economic insecurity have waxed and waned unevenly, exacerbated by deregulation, reregulation, financialization and less public social provisioning, undermining public health and social protection.

Policymakers shied away from addressing the fundamental causes of several financial crises from the 1990s (e.g., in Mexico, East Asia and Russia) and during the first decade of this century, e.g., the dotcom, food and global financial crises. Now, once again, all too many are focused on getting back to ‘business as usual’.

What multilateral coordination?
The global economic situation remains unpredictable, with uncertainties about the varied nature of pandemic recessions. Government responses have not only been diverse, but often poorly conceived due to the novel nature of the crisis. Impacts have varied with the contagion and policy responses, unhelped by often confusing, if not misleading metrics.

Such uncertainty is also reflected in the wide-ranging growth forecasts by major international organizations. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recognized the ‘Great Lockdown’ as due to ‘self-imposed’ contractions, leading to the “worst recession since the Great Depression”.

The IMF has supported government fiscal and monetary initiatives, declaring that it “stands ready to mobilize its US$1 trillion lending capacity to help its membership”. The World Bank has also promised an additional US$14 billion to help governments and businesses address the pandemic.

Plurilateralism also almost irrelevant
A March G-7 countries’ joint statement promised “a strongly coordinated international approach”, with no specific actions mentioned or forthcoming thereafter. Instead, countries have pursued their own divergent strategies, even banning exports of medical equipment.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to prioritise ‘America First’ while undermining most multilateral institutions and even plurilateral arrangements, including those created by the US, such as the G20.

Already, G20 members have been dragged into US-China tensions, as the White House blames China for the pandemic and other American problems. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the G20 chair for 2020, is itself embroiled in its own political and economic quagmire, undermined by falling oil revenues, worsened by its oil price war with Russia.

Poor diagnosis, bad medicine
Economic growth slowdowns, especially in manufacturing, services and trade, started prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Yet, the pandemic’s economic effects were expected to be short-term as factories and offices were closed, and strict ‘stay in shelter’ lockdowns were enforced to stop contagion.

The drop in economic output, as the epidemic began and spread to industrial hubs, has had international repercussions with supply chains disrupted.

Such supply disruptions have engendered and interacted with prolonged, wide-ranging demand shocks as Covid-19 crisis-induced policy responses and other uncertainties reduced consumption and investment spending, slowing economic growth and undermining employment.

Almost 2.7 billion workers, around 81% of the world’s workforce, work and earn less due to the Covid-19 recession, with those in lower middle-income developing countries losing most. And almost 1.6 billion in the informal economy are in the hardest hit sectors or significantly impacted by lockdown measures.

The longer the lockdowns persist, the greater the economic disruption and adverse impacts as the effects spread via trade and finance linkages to an ever growing number of countries, firms and households.

Governments have adopted various monetary and fiscal measures to try to revive and sustain economic activity. Such measures include cash transfers to households, extending unemployment insurance or social security benefits, temporary deferment of tax payments, and increasing guarantees and loans to businesses.

Early ‘stimulus packages’ assumed that the ‘pandemic shock’ would be short-lived and easily reversible. They have largely ignored addressing the unsustainability, inequality, instability and other vulnerabilities of their economic, social and ecological systems.

Monetary ruse, liquidity trap
Basel 3 recommended capital conservation and countercyclical capital buffers for all banks. Many central banks have cut interest rates and increased liquidity through a combination of measures, by lowering reserve and Basel 3 requirements, besides easing loan terms for new temporary loan facilities for banks and businesses.

Continued credit support, through unconventional monetary policies, has not addressed liquidity problems due to truncated business turnover. Increased liquidity provision has instead been captured by better ‘credit risks’, even fuelling inflation while doing little for the most vulnerable and needy, deepening pre-Covid-19 inequalities.

Unconventional monetary policies before Covid-19 were already creating stock market bubbles, instead of financing investments in the real economy, thus contributing to growing inequality.

Central banks have not been able to repair their balance sheets or draw back excess liquidity, for fear of financial sector collapse, thus ironically increasing its fragility by pumping in more liquidity, increasing speculation and fuelling inflation.

Fiscal traps unsustainable
Without better planned coordination, initial relief measures for households and businesses were often wrongly portrayed as fiscal stimulus packages while output has remained constrained by lockdown enforcement.

Despite cuts in government expenditure, especially for public health and social protection, there was little political will to increase progressive taxation. Still mounting government debt, already at historically high levels prior to the pandemic, has not helped.

Instead, earlier tax cuts have increased public debt, while the failure to improve fiscal capacities after the 2008 global financial crisis has meant eschewing productivity enhancing public investments, boosting revenue via progressive taxation, and strengthening universal health coverage and social protection.

Designing recovery
The design of measures matters, crucially affecting likely effects. As countries prepare for recovery, they should ask what ‘recovery’ can and should mean. To address the many problems we have to contend with, it should not mean a return to ‘business as usual’.

First, as workplaces and social spaces – where people meet, socialize, shop, etc. – have to be redesigned and repurposed to meet precautionary public health requirements, such as physical distancing. Second, the unsustainable, financialized and grossly unequal pre-Covid-19 economy needs to be fundamentally transformed.

Covid-19 policy responses have rarely addressed deeper prior malaises, such as stagnant or falling productivity growth and declining labour remuneration, not to speak of ‘sustainable industrial policy’ measures to address global warming, resource exhaustion and other sustainability problems.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

Sobre la seguridad alimentaria en el contexto de la pandemia

La pandemia del Covid-19 tiene impactos en todos los ámbitos de la vida social, económica, política y cultural. Uno de los más críticos es el que tiene que ver con la seguridad alimentaria. “Es altamente probable que la pandemia de COVID-19 repercutirá en un incremento del hambre y la pobreza en América Latina y el Caribe” advierten la FAO y la CELAC[1] .

¿Está asegurada la alimentación de todos los peruanos en lo que resta del año? ¿Cuáles son las proyecciones para el próximo año?

Para intentar una respuesta conviene distinguir los diferentes componentes de la seguridad alimentaria contenidos en la definición aprobada por la Cumbre Mundial de la Alimentación convocada en 1996 por la FAO: “Existe seguridad alimentaria cuando todas las personas tienen en todo momento acceso físico y económico a suficientes alimentos inocuos y nutritivos para satisfacer sus necesidades alimenticias y sus preferencias en cuanto a los alimentos a fin de llevar una vida activa y sana.”[2]

El primer componente –disponibilidad- es que haya suficientes alimentos disponibles para toda la población del país y en todo el territorio. El segundo –acceso-, que todos pueden acceder a los alimentos, ya sea comprándolos, produciéndolos o por otros medios. El tercero –uso-, es que los alimentos satisfagan las necesidades nutricionales para una vida sana. El cuarto –estabilidad-, que estos tres componentes sean estables, vigentes todo el tiempo.

a) Disponibilidad ¿Hay alimentos para todos?

Hasta el momento –segunda quincena de mayo- no parece haber un problema en la oferta de alimentos. Los mercados están abastecidos, aunque la información disponible se refiere, sobre todo, a las zonas urbanas de Lima y de algunas otras ciudades. Estamos consumiendo los productos que se sembraron antes de la pandemia.

Pero hay algunas informaciones preocupantes. El valor de la producción agrícola, que fue positivo en enero y febrero en comparación con los mismos meses del 2019, dio un resultado negativo (-0.3%) el mes de marzo, primer mes de la pandemia.[3]  El decrecimiento fue aún mayor en la principal fuente de proteínas animales de la población, el pollo: el volumen comercializado en los mercados mayoristas de Lima ha estado bajando: -10% en marzo, -8.9% en abril y -16.7% mayo.[4] No sabemos si estos datos negativos son un bache o el inicio de una tendencia que se va a prolongar en lo que queda del año. Todavía no se puede llegar a conclusiones firmes, hay que observar qué ocurre en los meses siguientes. Un estudio realizado por el Instituto Apoyo es pesimista, pues prevé que la crisis económica se prolongará y afectará negativamente la segunda campaña agrícola que se iniciaría en el segundo semestre de este año.[5] Lo que suceda en esa segunda campaña depende mucho de qué es lo que hará el gobierno en estas semanas.

Hasta el momento, el apoyo a los productores agrarios ha sido básicamente la entrega de bonos para suplir en algo la falta o reducción de los ingresos. Pero no se nota mayor esfuerzo del gobierno en apoyar la nueva campaña agrícola con financiamiento y otras medidas de apoyo económico y logístico. La demanda de Conveagro de que se destinen cinco mil millones de soles para un Fondo de salvataje y reactivación de la agricultura familiar, que produce las tres cuartas partes de los alimentos que consume el Perú, no ha sido acogida (en contraste con los miles de millones de soles puestos a disposición de las empresas privadas).

Una característica de la agricultura campesina es su capacidad de resiliencia, de resistir situaciones adversas. Una manera de defenderse de las crisis económicas es retraerse de los mercados y aumentar su autoconsumo. No sabemos si esta será una reacción en el contexto de la pandemia, pero si lo fuera, sin duda se reducirá la proporción de la producción que se destina a los mercados urbanos.

También puede afectar la disponibilidad de alimentos el hecho que muchos productores pueden contraer el coronavirus y, por consiguiente, se vean impedidos de continuar con su actividad productiva. Parece que hay un patrón de contagio que se inicia desde los sectores de ingresos medios y altos de las grandes ciudades,[6] hacia aquellos más pobres de las mismas ciudades, para extenderse luego a ciudades más pequeñas y, finalmente, a las áreas rurales. No sabemos cuánto penetrará el contagio en las áreas rurales. Uno de los factores que contribuirá a ello serán, sin duda, los retornantes que han emigrado desde las ciudades, un número indeterminado de los cuales estaban contagiados y seguramente transmitirán el mal a sus lugares de destino.

La agroindustria alimentaria es también un importante proveedor de alimentos. Seguramente se verá afectada por los cambios en la demanda producidos por la pandemia, pero al mismo tiempo favorecida por la inclinación de los consumidores de estoquearse con alimentos enlatados no perecibles. Su peso en la economía nacional es significativo: en el año 2017 representó el 4% del PBI nacional, cerca de la mitad de lo que aportó la minería ese año.

A diferencia de los alimentos frescos de origen agrario, cuya producción está distribuida en centenares de miles de familias agricultoras, este sector industrial está muy concentrado: tan solo dos empresas, Alicorp, del grupo Romero, y Gloria, del grupo Rodríguez Banda, centralizan más de la mitad de los ingresos de las 20 empresas de alimentos más importantes del país.[7] El grupo Romero también controla la mayor empresa productora de aceite de palma. En la industria avícola también hay un alto grado de concentración. Cinco empresas, encabezadas por el grupo San Fernando y Redondos, colocaron en el 2018 el 92% de la oferta total de carne de pollo en Lima Metropolitana y el Callao.[8] Como veremos más abajo, una parte sustancial de esta agroindustria depende de las importaciones de insumos, principalmente maíz amarillo duro (industria avícola)[9] y trigo (harinas y derivados); en menor medida, también de lácteos.

Las importaciones de alimentos complementan la producción doméstica y son muy importantes para la seguridad alimentaria del país. Anualmente las importaciones agropecuarias giran alrededor de las 7 millones de toneladas (el doble de toda la producción nacional de arroz en 2018, o un tercio más que toda la producción de papa de ese año), y alcanzan un monto aproximado de 2300 millones de dólares anuales. Importamos las tres cuartas partes del maíz amarillo duro, que es el principal insumo de la industria avícola (los pollos –no el pescado- son la principal fuente de proteínas de la población peruana).[10] Importamos más del 90% del trigo, con el que se produce harina, fideos y panes. Otros productos importados significativos para la alimentación del país son el arroz (293 mil toneladas), oleaginosas y lácteos y derivados.

El problema con esta crisis global es que los exportadores de alimentos comienzan a restringirlas para proteger su propia seguridad alimentaria (lo que está ocurriendo con cerca de una veintena de países)[11], presionando sobre los precios, como ocurrió en el 2007 y 2008. En esos años el incremento de precios aumentó el número de personas con hambre en el mundo de 840 millones a más de 1000 millones. Los riesgos de depender de las importaciones de alimentos en situaciones críticas ha conducido a que incluso en el Minagri se esté considerando que en el futuro el Perú debe ser menos dependiente de las importaciones. Podemos leer en un reciente documento de dicha institución que: “A medida que se generan problemas en el comercio internacional de alimentos, se considera cada vez más la necesidad de autosatisfacerse, y es esencial que cada país sea en la medida de los posible capaz de producir independientemente sus alimentos; convirtiéndose en una necesidad existencial.”[12]

No sólo importamos alimentos: también importamos semillas, fertilizantes, maquinarias, tecnologías, know how. La oferta de estos bienes tiene un alto grado de concentración a nivel global en corporaciones transnacionales. En los últimos años, varias de estas corporaciones se han fusionado, incrementando el grado de concentración.[13] El grado de autonomía que tiene el Perú respecto a estos productos es sumamente reducido, y los esfuerzos en investigación científica y tecnológica en estos rubros es cercano a cero.

b) El acceso a los alimentos

En segundo lugar, el acceso a los mismos ¿puede acceder toda la población a los alimentos?

La principal razón del hambre es la pobreza. Ya antes de la pandemia una parte importante de la población no podía acceder a los alimentos necesarios para una vida sana. Son los llamados pobres extremos del campo y la ciudad. Esta categoría –pobre extremo- se define como aquella persona cuyos ingresos no cubren la compra de una canasta básica de alimentos. Antes de la pandemia, el 3.7% de la población calificaba como pobres extremos (aproximadamente 1 millón 202 mil personas). Este número debe de haber crecido sustancialmente en los últimos dos meses, seguirá incrementándose en los meses por venir: la CEPAL estima que en un escenario alto, la pobreza extrema podría llegar a ser el 5.1% de la población (1 millón 657 mil personas).[14] Según el INEI, se han perdido 1.2 millones de empleos en los últimos tres meses tan solo en Lima, principalmente afectando a trabajadores informales.[15] El mismo INEI realizó una encuesta en la primera semana de mayo en la que el 14% de hogares declaró no haber podido comprar alimentos proteicos –carnes, pescado, huevos- por carencia de medios económicos, y un 9% declaró lo mismo con relación a la adquisición de alimentos ricos en carbohidratos.[16]

Para el conjunto de la población, y a pesar de las mejoras en el orden alimentario ocurridas en los últimos años, todavía en el 2018 el déficit calórico estimado a nivel nacional era de 36.7%. Más grave era la situación en las áreas rurales, en donde este porcentaje sube a 44.8.[17]

Lo mismo debe estar ocurriendo con la desnutrición infantil. En los años de crecimiento económico, la tasa de desnutrición se redujo significativamente, de más del 30% el año 2000, al 28.0% en el 2007 a 12.2% en el 2018 (aunque con importantes diferencias regionales: 21.1% en sierra vs 7.3% en costa en el 2018).[18]   Pero es de esperar que esta tasa vuelva a aumentar con la reducción de la actividad productiva en el campo y la ciudad y, por tanto, de los ingresos familiares.

¿Qué ocurre con millones de niños cuyo acceso a una comida principal dependía de los programas de alimentación escolar? Puesto que ya no asisten a las escuelas, y aunque se están haciendo esfuerzos por llevarles los alimentos, varios miles no podrán acceder a ellos en los meses por delante. De todos modos, el Programa Nacional de Alimentación Escolar Qali Warma continuará con la distribución de alimentos, aunque no es claro cuál será su alcance: por un lado, la institución informó que este año se distribuirá alimentos a 4 millones de niños[19], pero el diario oficial El Peruano menciona que serán 3 millones.[20] La diferencia es lo suficientemente grande como para merecer una aclaración oficial.

Otro problema es el sistema de transporte de alimentos. En varias localidades rurales la población misma, temerosa de contraer la enfermedad, establece controles a la entrada de transportistas. Por otro lado, hay un mayor control oficial de los medios de transporte por razones sanitarias. Las dificultades de llevar mercancías de un lado a otro no sólo son un problema para abastecer los mercados urbanos, sino también para movilizar los insumos necesarios para la producción agropecuaria,  y trasladar a los propios productores, lo cual afectará sin duda, también, la producción de los alimentos y los ingresos de los productores.

El cierre temporal de los mercados por razones de salubridad es otro obstáculo para el acceso a los alimentos, pero básicamente para los sectores populares. Las clases medias acuden a los supermercados, que cumplen mejor los protocolos de salubridad, o reciben los alimentos a domicilio por servicios de delivery. El Minagri ha ido impulsando los mercados itinerantes como una alternativa temporal. Pero, según fuentes oficiales, “Están participando más de 5,000 productores con casi 5,000 toneladas de productos.”[21], cifras francamente irrisorias.

Desde los estudios realizados por Amartya Sen –premio nobel de Economía en 1998– sobre las causas de las hambrunas, sabemos que estas se deben no a la inexistencia de alimentos suficientes, sino a las desigualdades en los mecanismos de distribución de alimentos; por ejemplo, a la imposibilidad de comprarlos por falta de dinero.[22] Es por ello que la distribución de bonos dispuestos por el gobierno es de primera importancia, pero depende de cuánto tiempo más durará esta crisis al mismo tiempo sanitaria y económica. También la falta de información puede contribuir a que haya hambrunas. Hace unos pocos días una funcionaria de la Defensoría del Pueblo relataba que poblaciones nativas amazónicas, particularmente las no contactadas, son totalmente ignoradas por el gobierno nacional y también regionales, en parte porque no reciben información de la situación de estas poblaciones. En términos prácticos, son invisibles en el mapa de las instancias gubernamentales que deciden sobre las ayudas a la población.

Queda claro, pues, que los diferentes niveles de acceso a los alimentos tienen como primera causa las múltiples facetas de la desigualdad, que se reflejará de manera más diferenciada, cruel y dramática a medida que se prolongue la crisis sanitaria y económica.

c) El uso. ¿Cuán nutritivos son?

En tercer lugar, el uso de los alimentos, su calidad nutricional.

Una de las manifestaciones del déficit nutricional –en este caso de minerales- de un importante número de la población en el Perú es la muy alta incidencia de la anemia. La reducción de la anemia no ha seguido los pasos de la importante reducción de la desnutrición infantil. “La anemia infantil afectaba en 2017 al 43.6% de los niños y niñas de 6 a 36 meses de edad”[23], lo cual es calificado por la OPS como un problema de salud pública grave. En el 2019 logró disminuir a 40.1%.[24] En las zonas rurales alcanza el 53%; y algo más en los niños más pobres, tanto urbanos como rurales (quintil 1). En el departamento de Puno el 75.9% de los niños de 3 años o menos son anémicos, y más del 60% en los departamentos de Loreto y Pasco. Hay una indudable relación entre anemia y pobreza, pero también la hay entre la anemia y el desconocimiento de lo que es una alimentación saludable.[25] Pero aún en los quintiles más altos de ingreso, la incidencia de la anemia es elevada, lo que indica una dieta nutricionalmente deficiente, sobre todo en hierro. Es de esperar que con la reducción de los ingresos esta situación se vaya agravando.

Con la reducción de ingresos y la variación de los precios muchas personas modifican la composición de su dieta. La nueva dieta reduce no solo la cantidad sino también la calidad de los alimentos consumidos. La evolución de los precios de los alimentos densamente calóricos y pobres en micronutrientes tiende a bajar, mientras que, al contrario, la de los alimentos sanos tiende a aumentar, alejándose de las posibilidades de ser adquiridos por las poblaciones pobres.[26] El consumo regular de la llamada comida chatarra, rica en azúcar, sodio y grasas, conduce al sobrepeso y a la obesidad, y contribuye a la creación de otro problema de salud pública: la multiplicación de enfermedades crónicas no transmisibles: cáncer, diabetes, enfermedades cardiovasculares y respiratorias crónicas. En el año 2018, el 23% de la población mayor de 15 años era obesa (por lo menos en 4 departamentos superaban el 30%), y el porcentaje se incrementa de año en año[27].

d) La estabilidad

El cuarto componente de la seguridad alimentaria es la estabilidad, es decir, el que no haya baches y vacíos en la disponibilidad de alimentos (desastres naturales, sociales o sanitarios), ni en su acceso (reducción de cosechas por causas naturales o socioeconómicas, elevación de los precios…), ni en su calidad nutritiva.

Precisamente este componente de la seguridad alimentaria es el más obviamente impactado por la pandemia pues, como hemos visto, hay incertidumbre sobre la disponibilidad de alimentos y sobre la capacidad de importantes sectores de la población de acceder a los mismos. Se viene a agregar, además, la inestabilidad causada por los efectos del cambio climático sobre el rendimiento de los cultivos, la disponibilidad del agua y la evolución de pestes y enfermedades, todo lo cual contribuye a presionar la elevación de los precios.

Esta inestabilidad se encuentra agravada por la falta de una institucionalidad que asegure que los componentes de la seguridad alimentaria mencionados sean incorporados a las políticas de Estado. Por poner un ejemplo: el proyecto de ley de seguridad alimentaria, cuyo objetivo era la instalación de una arquitectura institucional en los tres niveles de gobierno, fue aprobado por el Congreso en noviembre del 2015 y luego, a las pocas semanas, terminó archivado por el mismo Congreso; es improbable que el Congreso actual lo actualice. La misma Estrategia Nacional de Seguridad Alimentaria, supuestamente vigente hasta el año 2021, apenas si se ha implementado. No hay una política de Estado para asegurar la seguridad alimentaria con una visión de mediano y largo plazo. El gobierno nacional no ejerce ningún liderazgo que oriente realmente a los gobiernos regionales y municipales. La única política de Estado orientada a la actividad agropecuaria desde la década de 1990 es, como ya se mencionó, la promoción y el apoyo a la moderna agroindustria exportadora.

En síntesis…

Hay una amenaza real de que la seguridad alimentaria del país en su conjunto se vea seriamente afectada por la pandemia, de que en algún momento no haya alimentos suficientes, que vastos sectores de la población no puedan adquirirlos, y que se reduzca la calidad de la dieta. Cuánto más se prolongue la crisis pandémica en el Perú y el mundo la situación será más grave, en particular para los sectores poblacionales con menos ingresos y oportunidades.

La actual situación permite apreciar que las políticas agrarias que se han seguido por décadas en el Perú son inadecuadas para las necesidades del país. Es ineludible un cambio de prioridades. No puede continuar el privilegio de la gran empresa agroexportadora en desmedro del apoyo a la agricultura familiar, que abastece el mercado interno. En el actual contexto de la pandemia el gobierno podría exigir a estas grandes empresas que destinen un porcentaje del cuarto de millón de hectáreas con riego, o más, que poseen, a la producción de alimentos para el país. En una perspectiva de mediano plazo, el país debe reducir la dependencia de las importaciones, sin pretender, claro está, una imposible e inconveniente autarquía. Finalmente, el país no puede continuar con un modelo económico que crea poco empleo y profundiza las desigualdades.

Notas:

[1] “Seguridad alimentaria bajo la pandemia de COVID-19”. FAO y Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Celac) (2020). https://bit.ly/36vAN8k

[2] “Seguridad alimentaria bajo la pandemia de COVID-19”. FAO y Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Celac) (2020). https://bit.ly/36vAN8k

[3] Diario Gestión, 17 de mayo 2020. https://bit.ly/368zv2Y

[4] Minagri. Sistema de información de Abastecimiento y Precios (SISAP). 03 de junio 2020.

[5] Citado en los considerandos del Decreto de Urgencia 041-2020.

[6] Por ejemplo, lo mismo ocurrió en Arequipa, según informa el diario El Pueblo. https://bit.ly/36fcRGe

[7] Salazar, Elizabeth (15 noviembre 2019). “La poderosa industria que sirve la mesa en Perú”.  OjoPúblico. https://bit.ly/2TOAoci

[8] Minagri. Comercialización de aves en Lima Metropolitana y el Callao.  P. 13 https://bit.ly/2TNYnrR

[9] Un estudio realizado por el IICA en 1975, ya alertaba sobre “una riesgosa dependencia para el abastecimiento” de los cereales necesarios para la pujante industria avícola. IICA (noviembre 1975). Análisis de situación de la agroindustria en el Perú. (P.174) Después de 45 años, la situación no ha cambiado.

[10] La mayor parte de las proteínas provenientes del pescado es exportada en forma de harina para alimento de ganado, siendo China el principal comprador.

[11] The Economist. “The world’s food system has so far weathered the challenge of covid-19”. May 9th 2020 edition. https://econ.st/3616kyS

[12] Minagri. “Reporte coyuntural del comercio exterior agrario. El coronavirus y la puesta en valor de agricultores y ganaderos”. Comercio Exterior Agrario. 28 de abril 2020.  https://bit.ly/2ADkt9I

[13] Cuatro corporaciones controlan el 67% de la oferta global de semillas; también cuatro corporaciones concentran el 70% de la producción de agroquímicos. ETC Group (2018). Blocking the chain. Industrial food chain concentration. https://bit.ly/2zCJx0s

[14] CEPAL. Informe especial Covid-19, N° 3, 12 de mayo 2020. https://bit.ly/3cPuU8H

[15] Diario El Comercio, 21 de mayo 2020.

[16] INEI. Citado por Eduardo Zegarra. “De la pandemia a la crisis de alimentos en Perú”. 25 de mayo. https://bit.ly/2BcK2ih

[17] INEI-ENAHO (junio 2018). Condiciones de vida en el Perú. Trimestre: enero-febrero-marzo 2018. Cuadro 3.3. P. 8. https://bit.ly/2XayLYo

[18] OMS/OPS. Perú. Sala de Información y Análisis en Salud, https://bit.ly/36i1a1y

[19] OMS/OPS. Perú. Sala de Información y Análisis en Salud, https://bit.ly/36i1a1y

[20] Diario oficial El Peruano.  “Desde mañana Qali Warma distribuirá sus productos almacenados a los padres de familia”. 4 de junio  https://bit.ly/2Y4IoY1

[21] Minagri. “Diálogo sobre desarrollo rural, seguridad alimentaria y agricultura familiar en el contexto de la pandemia”. Presentación PP de la viceministra de Políticas Agrarias, Paula Rosa Carrión Tello. Mayo 18, 2020.

[22]  Amartya Sen (1981) Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation (Pobreza y hambruna: Un ensayo sobre el derecho y la privación ). Oxford University Press.

[23] Minsa (abril 2017).  Documento técnico Plan Nacional para la Reducción y Control de la Anemia Materno Infantil y la Desnutrición Crónica Infantil 2017-2021. http://bvs.minsa.gob.pe/local/MINSA/4189.pdf

[24] Andina. Febrero 2019. https://bit.ly/36jbLcH

[25] Gobierno del Perú (2018). Plan Multisectorial de Lucha contra la Anemia.

[26]  FAO (2019). Panorama de la Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional en América Latina y el Caribe. https://bit.ly/2ze0Wfs. P. 65.

[27] OMS/OPS. Perú. Sala de Información y Análisis en Salud. https://bit.ly/3bT6PfI

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

The Coronavirus and the Crisis of Global Capitalism

The coronavirus has thrown stock markets around the world into free fall and paralysed global commerce, but the economic calamity it has unleashed was a chronicle foretold. The bug is but the spark that ignited the combustible of a global economy that never fully recovered from the 2008 financial collapse and has been teetering on the brink of a renewed crisis ever since.

The pundits of global capitalism had deluded themselves into believing that all was well. But the underlying structural causes of the 2008 debacle, far from resolved, have been steadily aggravated. Frenzied financial speculation, unsustainable debt, the plunder of public finance, an overinflated tech sector, and state-organised militarised accumulation have kept the global economy sputtering along in recent years in the face of chronic stagnation and concealed its instability. The pandemic will pass but the crisis of global capitalism is here to stay.

Global Capitalism’s Structural Crisis

All the telltale signs of an overaccumulation crisis have been present for some time. Capitalist globalisation since the late 1970s has pushed the global working and popular classes onto the defensive and shifted the global balance of class forces in favour of transnational capital following the period of mass struggles in the 1960s and 1970s.

But globalisation also aggravated capitalism’s contradictions. Overaccumulation refers to a situation in which enormous amounts of capital are built up, but without productive outlets for reinvestment. This capital then becomes stagnant. By liberating emergent transnational capital from national constraints, globalisation undermined redistributive programmes that had attenuated capitalism’s inherent tendency towards social polarisation. The result has been an unprecedented sharpening of inequality that fuelled overaccumulation.

The level of global social polarisation and inequality now experienced is unprecedented. In 2018, the richest 1% of humanity controlled more than half of the world’s wealth while the bottom 80% had to make do with just 4.5%.

Such inequalities eventually undermine the stability of the system as the gap grows between what is (or could be) produced and what the market can absorb.

The extreme concentration of the planet’s wealth in the hands of the few and the accelerated impoverishment and dispossession of the majority meant that transnational capital had increasing difficulty finding productive outlets to unload the enormous surplus it accumulated. The more global inequalities expand, the more constricted is the world market and the more the system faces a structural crisis of overaccumulation. Left unchecked, the expanding social polarisation that is endemic to capitalism results in a crisis.

Overaccumulation originates in the circuit of capitalist production, yet it becomes manifest in the sphere of circulation, that is, in the market, as a crisis of overproduction or underconsumption.

Over the past few years there has been a rise in underutilised capacity and a slowdown in industrial production around the world. As the productive economy stagnates, capitalists have turned to financial speculation.

This surplus of accumulated capital with nowhere to go is without precedent. Transnational corporations recorded record profits during the 2010s at the same time that corporate investment declined. Worldwide corporate cash reserves topped $12 trillion in 2017, more than the foreign exchange reserves of the world’s central governments.

In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008 the US Federal Reserve undertook a whopping $16 trillion in secret bailouts to banks and corporations around the world. But then the banks and institutional investors simply recycled the trillions of dollars they received into new speculative activities in global commodities markets, in cryptocurrencies, and in land around the world, fuelling a new global ‘land grab.’

As opportunities have dried up for speculative investment in one sector, the transnational capitalist class simply turns to another to unload its surplus. As a result, the gap between the productive economy and fictitious capital grew into an enormous chasm.

In 2018, for example, the gross world product or the total value of goods and services, stood at some $75 trillion, whereas the global derivatives market was estimated at a mind-boggling $1.2 quadrillion. This accumulation of fictitious capital gave the appearance of recovery. But it only offset the crisis temporally into the future while in the long run exacerbating the underlying problem.

In addition to speculation, mounting government, corporate, and consumer debt have driven growth. Consumer credit has served the dual purpose of class pacification and of generating demand even as real incomes dropped for the immiserated majority subject to austerity and ever more precarious forms of employment.

State and corporate debt have also reached breaking point. The global bond market – an indicator of total government debt worldwide – surpassed $100 trillion in 2017, while total global debt reached a staggering $215 trillion in 2016.

Worldwide corporate debt has soared to $75 trillion, up from $32 trillion in 2005, while corporations have issued $13 trillion in bonds, more than twice bond debt on the eve of the 2008 collapse. A default on consumer, state, or corporate debt will set off a further chain reaction in the downward plunge of the global economy.

In sum, financial speculation, pillaging the state, and debt-driven growth cannot resolve the structural crisis of global capitalism. They are ‘fixes’ that did not resolve the underlying structural conditions that triggered the 2008 financial collapse.

The massive concentrations of transnational finance capital destabilise the system as global capitalism runs up against the limits of these fixes. The global economy has been a ticking time bomb in the last few years. All that was needed was something to light the fuse. That has come in the form of the coronavirus.

The Coming Upheavals: no return to normalcy

The ruling groups have already turned to new bailouts of capital. The US government injected an initial $1.5 trillion into Wall Street banks. Trump has promised tax giveaways to corporations and multibillion-dollar relief for airlines, the oil industry (including fracking), and private medical companies, among others. The White House promised that its response to the pandemic will be ‘centred fully on unleashing the power of the private sector'.

Yet it is unlikely that there will be similar bailouts for the billions of poor workers around the world who face a daily struggle for survival. The International Labour Organisation predicts that 25 million people worldwide will lose their jobs as a result of the virus, although this is considered a substantial underestimate. Up to a billion children worldwide have been affected by school closures. Hundreds of millions of transnational migrants and refugees have no access to health infrastructure. Prisoners in overcrowded jails the world over, the homeless, and those in war zones are sitting ducks for the virus. Capitalists will try to utilise mass unemployment and job insecurity to impose further discipline and austerity on labour.

The capitalist crisis unleashed by the coronavirus, it would seem, may be even more deadly for impoverished workers than the virus itself. As one popular grassroots organisation in my hometown of Los Angeles, Union del Barrio, has warned, the coronavirus ‘has unmasked the sick brutality of capitalism’ and requires a new level of solidarity and struggle from below.

The ‘rotten core of individualist consumer culture is exposed and, in the end, the only thing we can be sure of is that this grotesque system of monetised chaos and social inequity will likely condemn many of our communities to elevated levels of viral exposure,’ it declared. ‘To the degree that we can be disciplined in maximising solidarity among those closest to us will be the measure of how we can challenge the hysteria and neoliberal individualism promoted by the mainstream capitalist media.’

A Democratic win in in the upcoming US presidential elections is unlikely to alter the course of neoliberalism or the hegemony of transnational finance capital. Joe Biden, the likely Democratic nominee, who has been beholden to the financial industry throughout his career, has already made clear that Wall Street will be in charge of economic policy should he win. In early March it was reported that he is considering billionaire banker Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J P Morgan Chase, as Secretary of the Treasury.

Yet neoliberalism simply does not have any more reserves with which to contain financial chaos and economic implosion. The implacable drive to accumulation will impede solutions to what has truly become a crisis of humanity. Renewed capitalist stability, if it can even be achieved, would require a more profound restructuring – including the rebuilding of public sectors devastated by 40 years of neoliberalism – than Biden and the financial and corporate interests he represents, along with the liberal and social-democratic elite around the world, could possibly accomplish or would even want to.

But these are not the only forces from above who will seek to capitalise politically on the current calamity. There has been a rapid political polarisation in global society since 2008 between an insurgent far-right and an insurgent left. The crisis will surely animate far-right and neofascist projects that have surged in many countries around the world and will surely do the same for popular struggles from below. Social upheaval and political conflict will escalate.

Crises are times of rapid social change and open up the possibility of pushing society in many different directions, depending on the outcome of battles among contending social and class forces.

The ruling groups will intensify their class warfare from above. They will turn to extending the global police state to contain mass discontent from below as capitalist hegemony breaks down. This global police state, as I have discussed elsewhere, is driven by the twin imperatives of social control of the mass of immiserated humanity and the opportunities for unloading surplus and accumulating capital opened up by the expansion of state military spending and by privatised systems of transnational social control and repression.

The state policy levers that have kept the economy afloat since 2008, principally quantitative easing, will no longer work. As financial speculation and debt-driven growth reach the breaking point, this militarised accumulation may take over as the primary driver of the global economy. Historically, wars have pulled the capitalist system out of crisis while also deflecting attention from political tensions and problems of legitimacy.

States around the world have been centralising the response to the pandemic and declaring national emergencies. Such centralised coordination may now be urgent to confront the health crisis.

But centralisation of emergency powers in authoritarian capitalist states may well be used after the virus has been brought under control to contain discontent, heighten surveillance, and impose repressive social control – that is, to push forward the global police state.

Military and police forces are being deployed in countries around the world. In the United States, the National Guard has been activated in at least 27 states and the US Department of Justice secretly asked Congress to suspend constitutional rights during the health emergency.

In Europe, NATO members are preparing for ‘Defender 2020’ exercises scheduled for May and June and involving what security officials are calling ‘the most extensive transfer of US soldiers to Europe in the past 25 years'. Is martial law to follow?

The crisis triggered by the pandemic will leave in its wake more inequality, more political tension, more militarism, and more authoritarianism. Short of overthrowing the system, the only way out of the crisis is a reversal of escalating inequalities through a redistribution of wealth and power downward. That will not come without a fight.

Consciousness seems to be growing worldwide on the need for grassroots solidarity and mutual aid in the face of the pandemic. Left and progressive forces must position themselves now to beat back the threat of war and the global police state and to push the coming upheavals in a direction that empowers the global working and popular classes to confront the crisis in accordance with their own interests.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

The Covid-19 Shock to Developing Countries

Autor: 

Evitar la depresión global

Las proyecciones del posible impacto de la crisis de Covid-19 en las economías de todo el mundo para el año 2020 varían mucho. Sin embargo, hay un amplio acuerdo en que la economía mundial se contraerá dada la repentina detención de grandes franjas de actividad y la consiguiente pérdida de ingresos en los sectores manufacturero y de servicios en los países más avanzados y en China, junto con los efectos adversos en los mercados financieros, el consumo (tanto por los efectos de los ingresos como de la riqueza), la confianza en la inversión, el comercio internacional y los precios de los productos básicos.

Para los gobiernos de los países avanzados, que ahora luchan por contener el impacto económico de la pandemia de Covid -19, el desafío se ve agravado por la persistente fragilidad que rodea a las posiciones financieras altamente especulativas, en particular, las cargas de deuda ya insostenibles asociadas a los préstamos corporativos altamente apalancados. Éstos se han ido acumulando a lo largo de la última década de dinero fácil y con un telón de fondo de "economías de alta tecnología y gran magnitud" muy poco reguladas y desigualdades de ingresos profundamente arraigadas. Además, la avalancha de créditos baratos que se ha producido desde 2008 también se ha extendido a los países en desarrollo, creando nuevas vulnerabilidades financieras y socavando la sostenibilidad de su deuda.

En los últimos días, las principales economías desarrolladas y China han anunciado una serie de planes de estímulo, sin precedentes tanto en escala como en alcance, para atenuar los crecientes daños económicos y responder a la crisis sanitaria. Además de las inyecciones financieras para mantener los balances de los bancos y las empresas en una situación relativamente estable, las medidas fundamentales para evitar las contracciones de la actividad económica incluyen el gasto público (en particular en atención de la salud), la ampliación de las prestaciones por desempleo y las transferencias de efectivo.

Los países en desarrollo se enfrentan a distintas presiones y limitaciones que les dificultan considerablemente la aplicación de un estímulo eficaz sin tener que hacer frente a restricciones cambiarias vinculantes. Y como esos países no emiten monedas de reserva internacionales, sólo pueden obtenerlas mediante exportaciones o ventas de sus reservas. Además, las propias exportaciones requieren importantes importaciones de equipo, bienes intermedios, conocimientos técnicos y servicios empresariales financieros. Por último, las turbulencias financieras de esta crisis ya han provocado fuertes devaluaciones monetarias en los países en desarrollo, lo que hace mucho más oneroso el servicio de sus deudas y el pago de las importaciones necesarias para su actividad industrial.

Informe completo

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

The Economist anuncia cambios del “modelo chileno”

La revista británica The Economist, firme defensora del capitalismo liberal, sorprende con su reciente artículo sobre Chile (18-07-2020). Lo encabeza con el título “El Covid-19 acelera los cambios del modelo económico chileno” y agrega en el subtítulo que “como consecuencia de la crisis sanitaria el país se encamina hacia la social democracia”.

Es claro que a la revista británica le disgusta la gestión de Piñera. Destaca la torpeza y lentitud del Gobierno en defender a los chilenos de las consecuencias económicas del Covid-19. Esta crítica coincide con los argumentos opositores y la de los parlamentarios de derecha, que han apoyado el retiro de los fondos de las AFP. Agrega que los chilenos ricos obtienen muchos mejores servicios de salud y educación que los pobres y que “Las pensiones que los chilenos ahorran para su vejez, resultaron ser más bajas que lo que muchos esperaban cuando el sistema fue implementado en 1980”.

La revista británica se ha dado cuenta que Piñera no tiene capacidad para gobernar y que está conduciendo al país a una dramática crisis. The Economist ya lo había cuestionado cuando se produjo el estallido social del 18-O. En esa oportunidad destacó que sus respuestas fueron ineptas y ayudaron a desatar la crisis. Se refería a esa “guerra” que anunció Piñera y, también, a los torpes dichos de los ministros de Economía y de Hacienda que obligaron a sus despidos del gabinete.

The Economist no hace más que constatar que nuestro país vive un momento de cambios. Las vigorosas protestas del 18-0 contra el orden económico-social y, ahora, el masivo apoyo ciudadano al retiro del 10% de los ahorros en las AFP, revelan que existe una fuerza mayoritaria para transformar el modelo neoliberal. Esto se ve ratificado por el acuerdo parlamentario mayoritario, de la oposición y parte de la derecha, para convertir en ley el retiro del 10%.

El sentido común está cambiando. La hegemonía cultural neoliberal comienza a hacer agua porque ha crecido la conciencia que el actual estado de cosas no puede seguir. Y, si la clase política no apoya el camino de transformaciones, que está exigiendo la mayoría ciudadana, se desatarán incontenibles protestas sociales. La revista británica, prefiere cambios al sistema capitalista antes que éste entre en una completa debacle.

La dolorosa experiencia del coronavirus es una lección no sólo en el ámbito de la salud, sino desnuda el injusto e irracional sistema económico y social existente; pero, fueron las protestas de octubre del año pasado las que abrieron el camino. El coronavirus y el 18-O desafían también a una clase política que achicó el Estado y que se convirtió en protectora del sistema de desigualdades e injusticias.

La crisis en curso ofrece condiciones de posibilidad para los cambios. Sin embargo, éstos no serán automáticos, sino dependerán de la lucha de los hombres y mujeres – pobres y sectores medios- afectados durante décadas por insoportables desigualdades e injusticias. Pero, los cambios también dependerán de la construcción de la convergencia política de todos aquellos dispuestos a terminar con el neoliberalismo. Habrá que caminar en esta dirección teniendo como faro la Constituyente.

En suma, se precisa una nueva estrategia de desarrollo, que termine con el Estado subsidiario y que coloque en su centro a toda la sociedad y no la protección del 1% de los más ricos.

En primer lugar, habrá que diversificar una estructura productiva fundada en los recursos naturales. Porque las actividades extractivas muestran inestables ingresos de exportación, deterioran el medio ambiente, no ayudan a generar encadenamientos hacia el conjunto de la economía y generan empleo precario e informal. Además, porque este estilo productivo ha acumulado rentas extraordinarias en el 1% de los más ricos, concentrando un poder económico, que domina la política y los medios de comunicación. Aquí radica la base material de las desigualdades y la dificultad para convertirnos en país desarrollado.

Segundo. El Estado subsidiario necesita ser reemplazado por un Estado promotor de políticas de fomento, en favor de actividades industriales y/o que intervenga directamente en iniciativas productivas, que al sector privado no le interesan. Un Estado activo también deberá apoyar seriamente a las pequeñas empresas y, muy especialmente, regular con efectividad el comportamiento competitivo de los mercados.

Tercero. Se precisa aumentar sustancialmente la inversión en ciencia, tecnología e innovación, condición indispensable para que la inteligencia se incorpore en la transformación de los procesos productivos y para agregar el valor necesario en la diversificación de bienes y servicios.

Cuarto. Un nuevo modelo económico exige políticas sociales universales para mejorar radicalmente la educación formal y la capacitación de los trabajadores, así como implementar un sistema de salud pública de calidad para toda la sociedad. Nuevas tecnologías y procesos modernos exigen profesionales y trabajadores con formación y salud de calidad. Ello resultará en mayor productividad, mejores salarios y distribución del ingreso.

Quinto. El desenfrenado ataque a la naturaleza no puede continuar. Los procesos productivos y el crecimiento no pueden poner el peligro el funcionamiento de los ecosistemas ni la salud de los seres vivos.  

Finalmente, después del Covid-19, los productos médicos y otros bienes y servicios fundamentales para nuestra sobrevivencia serán de producción nacional. En consecuencia, es altamente probable que en la post pandemia se refuercen nuevas líneas industriales en bienes que antes se importaban. También habrá que poner atención a los mercados cercanos, ya que será más eficiente acercarnos productiva y comercialmente con los países de Sudamérica. Habrá que replantear entonces nuestra política de comercio exterior, otorgando mayor prioridad a las relaciones con los países vecinos.

La revista The Economist nació en 1843 y, a lo largo de casi 180 años, ha sido firme defensora del capitalismo. En consecuencia, su enojo con Piñera responde más bien a la torpeza que éste ha mostrado para protegerlo antes que a diferencias ideológicas.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica

The United States and the finances of the pandemic

In the pandemic, the United States and its institutions have taken measures that have had an impact on providing liquidity to the international system. In Latin America, specifically, these have come through the IMF but also agreements with the US central bank (FED). The distribution of banking profits in the first quarter of 2020 and a boom in the stock market shows the close relationship FED-Financial Industry.

Since the end of January, world stock exchanges presented a generalised fall as an effect of the measures to close production and services in the world (http://www.obela.org/analisis/la-financiarizacion-de-la-crisis-del-covid19). On March 23, the day of world lows in stock markets, the FED announced measures for an economic recovery that changed the trajectory of the stock markets. The intervention was through several channels:

• The Main Street Program, 600 billion dollars, designed to help the flow of credit to small and medium businesses that face cash flow disruptions.

• The purchase of corporate bonds in the primary market, $500 billion, and granting of loans to qualified companies.

• The purchase of corporate bonds in the secondary market, $250 billion, buys bonds individually and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), a stock market instrument that groups assets, and replicates their aggregate behavior.

• The increase in the availability of financing of bills of exchange and short-term promissory notes, 100 bn USD, to companies and others.

    • The purchase of collateralized consumer credit assets, $100 billion dollars, for example, automobile loans, student loans, and others.

    • The purchase of short-term debt of state and local governments, $ 500 bn USD.

    The maximum unemployment rate of 14.7% (22 million unemployed) and 42 million applications for US unemployment assistance in April reduced to 13.3% by June but with 45 million applications. The revolving credit fell 64% in the first quarter, and the company Visa reported in May a fall of 21% in the volume of credit card use and an increase of 12% in debit cards. There was an increase in mortgage loan defaults, overdue student loans, credit cards, and the productive corporate sector.

    In the US, the distribution of dividends per share doubled versus earnings per share in the banking sector. (more information). It happened in the context of the bankruptcy of companies (J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus) of retail sales, hotels; (Chuck E. Cheese, Food First) some chains of restaurants, Hertz Rent a Car, (car rental) and the loss of investment grade (Renault, Ford, Delta Airlines, Bombardier, Boeing, American Airlines, to name the most prominent). In these conditions, the stock markets have, on the contrary, shown a strong recovery, and the Nasdaq has reached new highs. The companies Zoom, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, Netflix, and Facebook are among the most prestigious companies that have benefited from the closure.

    With the rest of the world, the FED continues its role as the provider of international liquidity, as a global central bank, through swap lines of 60 billion dollars with Australia, Brazil, Korea, Mexico, Singapore and Sweden, and 30 billion dollars with Denmark, Norway and New Zealand. It also launched a repo program, open to central banks with an account with the Fed, to provide short-term dollars without the need to sell US Treasury bond holdings, under the asset repurchase agreement.

    The IMF has given quick loans to Haiti (112 million dollars), Saint Lucia (29 million dollars), Dominica (14 million dollars), and Grenada (22 million dollars). In comparison, those favored are Bolivia (327 million dollars), Costa Rica (508 million dollars), Dominican Republic (650 million dollars), Ecuador (643 million dollars), El Salvador (389 million dollars), Panama (515 million dollars) and Paraguay (274 million dollars). Other large countries, such as Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia, have flexible credit lines for 61,000, 11,000, 23,930, and 11,000 million dollars, respectively.

    The FED and central banks' intervention speaks of market imperfection, asymmetries, and the lack of free competition. All are contrary to the defenders of the perfect market. The distribution of twice as many dividends as companies earned in the first quarter per share is a contradiction in terms that reflects financialisation, the power of financial capital, and the dollar. The Fed and the central bank's increase in liquidity allowed the stock markets to recover without a recovery in production, and high levels of unemployment, low levels of consumption and destruction of production, in a contradiction that leads to an increase of the existing inequality.

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    The effects of covid-19 on price indices

    The world is approaching a food consumption crisis. There are growing problems in the production and distribution of widespread basic foodstuffs. The slowdown in economic activities has impacted on manufacturing production linked to the world market, as well as on food processing and distribution. Prior to March 2020, there was a trend of rising food prices caused by the outbreak of African Swine Fever, which resulted in the elimination of a third of the Chinese pig herd,1 and the worst locust infestation in East Africa in 70 years.2 With production and marketing on international and local markets coming to a halt since March, when the pandemic was declared, price pressure on these commodities has increased.

    The first reactions to possible shortages were hoarding. Panic buying was reported in the cities, and supermarkets restricted supply. Some countries have started to restrict food exports (Kazakhstan, Serbia, Vietnam). On the international market, this trend has rekindled tension between food exporters and their importers. According to FAO, in this context "the risk of famine is increasing in some countries, and it is even possible that several famines may occur at the same time”.3

    No country applied measures to curb or isolate food production. Instead, production was sought to continue at normal rates. However, what is observed in the market is not shortages due to lack of production, but to problems in the distribution channels. The supply of food, on the international side, was interrupted when the distribution channels were suspended. On the national side, the distribution channels between the countryside and the city also stopped and the supply was equally impacted. The combined effect has been a rise in food prices and basic necessities, which, however, is not reflected in the consumer price indexes, in general, due to the strong deflation of fuels and other raw materials.

    The sharp drop in fuel prices is one of the clearest expressions of the effect that productive unemployment has had on the energy market. The global economic contraction, decreases consumption and international prices, while inventories increase. This condition was sought to be addressed with an international agreement to reduce production, promoted by the US with OPEC support to control the price, but it was insufficient. The almost generalized stoppages in world production activities accelerated the accumulation of crude oil and saturated inventories.

    The commodity market also observes a long-term downward price trend, since 2014, accelerated in the covid19, with the Bloomberg commodity price index accumulating more than a 23% drop between January and May 2020. The impact on prices has been that the fall in the price of fuel and other commodities has served to keep consumer goods prices down. This hides in the general consumer price indexes that food prices have started to rise.

    In this scenario, the economic outlook is tougher for mono-export countries, which are dependent on the world market for food. The development of means of transport, since the 1980s, created the conditions for trade and rapid transport of perishable goods from anywhere in the world. With the economic rationale of free markets, free international food trade became more profitable and the notion of food security was abandoned. We now see the consequences on prices and the risks of lack of supplies. Policies will be needed to resolve the supply situation and, above all, to address the sharp fall in household incomes and guarantee the minimum necessary consumption.

     

    1 More: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/opinion/china-swine-fever.html

    2 More: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/26/kenya-suffers-worst-locust...

    3 http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1276081/icode/

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    The electric public transport system in Latin America

    The international commitments of the United Nations Agenda 2030 have forced governments to rethink public mobility policy around the world. The change in public transport systems to electric units has put on the table the importance of China as an exporter of these units and the demand for global oil demand in the long term.

    According to Bloomberg, each electric bus saves 0.5 barrels of oil per day. According to the International Energy Agency, there were 460,000 electric buses in the world at the end of 2018, with an annual saving of 82.8 million barrels. The price of an electric bus, on average, is $540 thousand dollars and a diesel bus $450 thousand, but the savings in oil is $155,000 dollars in a twelve-year life at $71 dollars b/d. The infrastructure of placing electric charging stations increases the costs of changing the fleet. In the long term, as more units enter circulation and batteries become less pricey, these should go down. The problem of replacement lies in whether oil prices remain below $30 per barrel beyond 2020.

    China holds 95% of the total electric buses made in the world. Since 2011, the change of energy matrix is a Chinese public goal, becoming the leading producer and consumer of electric vehicles in the world in 2014. It is also at the forefront of this global trade, with 1,520 buses exported in 2018, followed by the U.S. with 859 units is the second-largest exporter, manufactured by a Chinese company in California.

    In Latin America, the use of electric buses is still incipient. However, Chile began plans to electrify mass transport when it pledged at COP25 to have 100% of its fleet electrified by 2024 and created the Ruta Energética 2018 - 2022 initiative. At the end of 2018, 100 vehicles arrived, and there are another 183 operating in Santiago since 2019.

    By the end of 2020, Colombia would like to be the country with more electric buses in the region. The Electricity and Sustainable Mobility Law of July 2019 should make Bogotá the city with the largest electric fleet, with 483 units. Cali already has 26 units and Medellín 64. By law, the national government, category one municipalities (with 700,001 to 2,000,000 inhabitants), and specialized municipalities, except for Tumaco and Buenaventura, must comply with a 30% quota of electric vehicles purchased or contracted annually by mid-2020.

    Sao Paulo has 15 buses in motion since the end of 2019 produced at the BYD plant in Campinas, which aims to manufacture buses for the entire country. The solar park in Araçatuba is the energy source for the vehicle chargers. Under Law Number 16,802 of the State of Sao Paulo, the mass transport system must gradually reduce to zero the emissions of pollutants. Similarly, on Feb. 13, 2020, the Brazilian Senate's Constitution and Justice Commission approved a law that bans the sale of gasoline and diesel-powered cars by 2040. With this, it wants to position itself as the country with the most significant regional electromobility in competition with Chile and Colombia.

    In Guayaquil, Ecuador, 20 units are operating since March 2019 with an investment of US$400,000 per unit financed by the National Financial Corporation under the Electric Mobility Plan. The company BYD, at the end of 2019, built an electric charging station there to recharge buses and taxis. The purchase of 300 electric buses for Quito, however, is on hold due to the problems caused by the COVID. With the reform of the Energy Efficiency Law, from 2025, no diesel vehicles will be incorporated into the mass transport system in Ecuador.

    Tests began in Buenos Aires with eight units in May 2019, and Mendoza already has 12 units in operation since July 2019. In Mexico City, 40 electric buses are operating since November 2019. In the Strategy document for electromobility in Mexico City 2018 - 2030 is planned to buy in this period 3,390 electric buses to cover 29 trunk lines that include 500 km of mass transport. In San Jose, Costa Rica, the first 12 German electric buses will arrive by the end of 2020. In Montevideo, Uruguay, there are also tests with ten vehicles in circulation.

    There are 54 manufacturers of electric and hybrid buses in the world, led by BYD and Yutong. The world bus market will grow 27.2% per year, particularly in the Asia Pacific region in the coming decade, affecting long-term demand for oil. This energy shift will be the new impetus for the growth of the world economy in the 21st century. It will also be an issue of confrontation between the United States and China; and of Latin America with the United States.

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    The fall in world trade volume and commodity prices

    A large number of businesses have stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current economic outlook is harmful to the global economy. In terms of international trade, the trade war has weakened the world's trade flows over the past two years. The COVID-19 outbreak has further undermined this negative trend. Global production chains are fractured, as China is the leading producer in international trade, the main exporter and the second-largest importer in the world. It is also the central link in five productive branches: pharmochemistry, automotive, aeronautics, electronics and telecommunications, and in some of the leading supply chains in the world. (http://www.obela.org/en-analisis/coronavirus-a-greater-risk-to-the-world...)

    This circumstance is expressed, mainly in two ways, from a financial sense and a real sense. The adverse outlook for the real sector has led to a collapse in the stock markets. To alleviate the foreseeable adverse effects, the US government approved a liquidity injection by the US Federal Reserve (Fed) even higher than that executed in the 2008-2009 crisis. They also reduced the interest rate (Federal funds rate) to minimum levels (between 0 and 0.25%), which in real terms are unfavorable, on March 15, 2020. The FED injected 700 bn dollars of Liquidity into the system through the purchase of public debt. Noteworthy are the two trillion dollars approved by the United States Senate for different ends. The US Federal Government will deliver direct payments to people without income, improve the scope of unemployment insurance; and strengthen essential medical services. Besides, the Fed has recently extended a credit line for currency swaps, to stabilize the exchange rates of its leading partners in the face of a potential fall in their currencies. These include Korea, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, and Brazil. China has also introduced a renminbi swap mechanism with its leading partners in Asia.

    A reduction in the Fed's interest rate in the past meant a reverse effect on commodity prices in what is known as an arbitrage effect. This time, given the adverse growth prospects of the economies, lower demand for inputs is expected. Therefore future commodity prices have fallen rather than risen. However, the financial rescue seems to be changing the price trend without breaking the real demand structure of physical commodities. The pattern of significant commodity prices is downward since 2011, with a slight respite when interest rates began to fall in 2016. However, prices never recovered and are now in decline to lower levels than before.

    This trend has not changed despite the drop in the interest rate to negative levels. Given the prospect of a loss of real demand for inputs, the reaction in the stock market after the announcement of the money injection has not been evident on commodity prices, which follow a downward trend. Only gold is on an upward trend. The recent decline in oil prices is noteworthy. Conflicts between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and U.S. oil and shale gas producers have resulted in lowered oil prices, putting the U.S. oil industry in difficulty.

    As a result of the closure of China's production and the suspension of deliveries to global value chains and as intermediate inputs, many more countries have stopped much of their output. As a result, the volume of trade is declining. The graph below shows a 15% drop so far in 2020.

    International trade is suffering in both exports and imports. Lower commodity prices have a direct impact on primary export economies, such as most Latin American economies. Equally, the breakdown of production chains limits imports from much of the world. It has paralyzed Caribbean Basin countries that manufacture Chinese inputs for final goods for the U.S. market.

    The world has launched economic rescue plans not seen since the 2008-2009 crisis—these range from loans to small businesses, reductions in working hours, and tax write-offs. However, the deterioration in the volume of international trade is a factor, which neither central banks nor fiscal stimuli can correct with greater liquidity, or with any other rescue program. It will not affect stimulating economic growth if there are no real-world inputs mostly made in China. The cash injected allows companies that are not operating to survive and pay their bills, but do not allow for the reactivation of production. The productive chains and inputs for markets such as the United States are stopped and the productive responses are not sufficient so far. The injection of liquidity will most likely end up in the stock exchanges as in 2008-2009.

    The global economy now shows the most vulnerable part of the production chains. The complete interdependence in international trade and the lack of substitutes is evident. It also shows how limited is the capacity to respond to a reduction in material production. Taking this into account, in addition to the trade war, it seems that the globalization launched in 1990 is coming to a head

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    The financialisation of the covid19 crisis

    The economic crisis that accompanies the COVID19 break and its health crisis has generated stock market crashes that had never been seen before. Steeper and deeper than the 1929-31 decline, the stock market crashes pushed the panic button of the Central Banks of advanced economies. Terrified of a total collapse of all securities that would generate problems of banking and financial failures, they came to the rescue. The immediate solution was to inject 3 trillion dollars of credit into the system in the United States. This was replicated by the ECB and the Bank of England. The idea was to induce the banks to put that money into the stock markets and thus stabilize them.

    In the United States, between February 25 and March 23rd, the financial markets had lost more than 30% of the value of their assets and the outlook was worse. On March 23rd the Fed announced a new measure of more than one trillion dollars, thus accumulating an injection of more than 3 trillion. With this it managed to stop the fall of the financial market, (see the graph) and record the best performance of its stock markets since 1938. On the contrary, the U.S. economy has accumulated, since February 2020, more than 27 million jobs lost, the highest in its history. Then, in an antithetical and irrational way, the economy that has projected to lose -5.9% of its GDP and increasing unemployment has a stock market recovery.

    According to the latest issue of the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook, published in April, the impact of COVID19 on the world economy will be a contraction of -3% in economic growth. A fall of -6.1% was estimated for advanced economies, with stronger contractions in Italy, -9.1%; Spain, -8%; France -7.2%; Germany, -7.0%; and the United Kingdom, -6.5%. Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to contract by -5.2%, with harder effects in Mexico -6.6%; Ecuador -6.3%; Argentina -5.7%; and Brazil -5.3%. Overall, as many have already acknowledged, this is the biggest crisis in the history of capitalism.

    In any case, although most of the measures to create monetary liquidity have been aimed at sustaining financial returns, they do have an impact on the real economy, although not in the same proportion, insofar as they are aimed at refinancing the debts of closed businesses or those with fallen sales. In addition, there is increased fiscal spending, including direct transfers of income to households and, in exemplary cases such as Chile and Spain, the building of a guaranteed universal minimum living income. This guarantees access to livelihoods for the population, allows for the adoption of distancing measures and promotes the reactivation of the domestic market. The pending issue is the promotion of real investment and production.

    However, not all economies have this fiscal, monetary and financial capacity to implement such measures. COVID19 has also expressed all the asymmetries existing between developed countries and those with lower levels of development. More than thirty years of decreasing State participation, privatization of public services and, for that matter, the abandonment of free health systems, caused immense difficulty in the capacity to contain this and any health crisis.

    The globalization of production and trade tended towards countries with lower labour costs and fiscal preferences. This logic implied that the condition of work in these countries has been developed on informality and the disappearance of labour rights: unemployment insurance, work disability, retirement savings, social security, medical services. Under these conditions there are no labour guarantees, universal unemployment insurance, paid social benefits, etc. In Latin America, for example, more than 53% of workers are in the informal sector, and about 38% of the population lives below the poverty line and 11% in extreme poverty. This is why social distancing and unemployment measures are so difficult to implement and sustain for long periods. That is also why universal unemployment insurance is so urgent.

    The question of the instantaneous rescue of the stock market and the financial sector on March 23 with the injection of $3 trillion when unemployment rises raises the question of the importance of the financial sector for decision-makers and policy makers. Conversely, it speaks to the second place of universal income insurance and income redistribution mechanisms that could assist in the recovery of aggregate demand in these bleak times.

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    The impact of the pandemic on the latin american economy

    The stop of economic activities seriously affected the Latin American economies during the first half of 2020, where eight years of production are lost. This text will discuss how the most affected economies were those with the least economic dynamism, and those least damaged had a more significant activity rate.

    Since 2013, the Dominican Republic has had the highest economic growth rate in Latin America, at 6.2% per year. Its production contracted by one-sixth during the first half of 2020, but its great dynamism slowed down. The next strongest countries between 2013 and 2019 were Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, and Bolivia, with rates above 3%. These economies saw the smallest contraction during the same period except for Peru and Honduras. The stop hurt Paraguay, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, with a decline of between three and four years, while in Bolivia, it was five years.

    In Paraguay, the most critical activity is services, with just under half of the total economy severely affected by the cessation of activities. Manufacturing, however, fell slightly, which prevented a massive output loss.

    Peru lost nearly nine years of production, despite being one of the most dynamic countries. It represented a third of its total output in the first half of 2020, making it the country with the most massive annual fall in GDP in the region. Like Paraguay, services are crucial and fell by a quarter, especially in catering and tourism. Its industrial sector also fell by 40 percent. Honduras contracted by nine years.

    The countries with growth of less than 3% since 2013 are El Salvador, Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Belize, Jamaica, and Ecuador. The last four grew at rates of just over 1% in that period. Finally, the worst performing countries are Brazil and Argentina, which decreased by an average of 0.5% per quarter between 2013 and 2019.

    Argentina and Mexico lost a fifth of their production in the first half of 2020 due to COVID. In Mexico, all economic sectors contracted, possibly due to the domestic market's shutdown on par with the international market. Agricultural activity fell by 1%, services by 16%, restaurants and tourism by 70%, and industry by 26%. In Argentina, services were sustained during the first half of the year by a 4% GDP boost through increased spending on social security, education, and public health. It amounts overall to 64% of GDP. Branches such as wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, and financial intermediation grew by 30%. However, Argentina's previous problems worsened by the closure of economic activities and international trade.

    Brazil, on the other hand, barely fell by a tenth. Like Mexico and Argentina, services account for 64% of the economy, which they looked after through money transfers. Like Argentina, its previous low growth caused it to lose a large number of years of production. The three largest economies in Latin America lost an average of 10 years of production.

    For Belize and Jamaica, trade is ethers enlargest activity in the economy. Jamaica is the worst case, with a collapse equivalent to 24 years of production without government intervention. In Belize, the government increased spending by less than 2% and is still the second-largest annual decline after Peru.

    On average, Latin America lost eight years of production, while China lost only one, the United States six, and the European Union 11. China, Europe, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and the Dominican Republic imposed mandatory quarantine. Panama imposed exit restrictions by gender. Chile, Cuba, and Guatemala implemented quarantine by zones, while in Brazil and the United States, the states defined various quarantines. Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Uruguay applied government recommendations of social distancing and preferably not going out on the streets

    The economic growth of the previous decade determines the outcome for the economy of infection prevention policies. When economic dynamics are low, a small fall, driven by the closure of internal and external economic activities, leads to a massive contraction, measured in terms of years of output. If the dynamics are high, a large fall leads to only a small reduction in production. There are two exceptional cases which emerge from this behaviour, Peru and Honduras. In both cases, informality weighed heavily and was strongly affected by the closure, and both have a large restaurant and tourism sector, where the lockdown was a determining factor.

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    The profitability of the oil industry

    The crisis over COVID-19 has hit the world economy as a whole. This note will review the effects on the oil industry, the fall in the volume of world supply and demand, and the prices of crude oil quoted on international markets, especially the West Texas Intermediate (WTI). It will also explain the loss of profitability in the industry and some variables not considered related to the change in the energy matrix.

    The International Energy Agency estimates that global demand for crude oil fell in volume in April, i.e. it will represent values of a decade ago during the course of this year. As for supply, it has been reduced through an OPEC+ agreement, which includes other producers such as Russia, the US, Mexico and Canada, for a cut of approximately 9.7 million barrels per day in May and June, the deepest cut ever agreed by the world's oil producers. The group will then steadily increase production until the agreement expires in April 2022.

    After the agreement, WTI prices fell to negative levels, reaching minus $40 on oil futures that expired on April 21. This price also affeced the other oil indices such as Brent; it showed that there is nowhere to deposit the oil, and it is unlikely that reactivation of supply will happen soon. The Norwegian energy consultant Rystad estimated that “[...] given the oversupply in the market since then, as of 21 April, the market may only have about ten days of practical onshore storage capacity left for crude oil”.

    The meager price has particularly affected the US industry, which did not significantly cut back on its oil production. The Energy Information Administration's weekly data for the first week of April showed that the U.S. oil industry was still pumping 13 million barrels of crude oil a day, just below production peaks. Gasoline demand fell from 9.2 m/b/d to 6.7 m/b/d between the first week of April 2019 and the same week in April 2020, leaving a growing stockpile. The market will recover in terms of demand when the contingency passes, and economic activity becomes regularized. The long term price trend is, however, still negative for this sector (more information).

    Production is expensive, and obtaining profitability at low prices is extremely difficult for a large number of companies related to the sector. As a result, several oil companies have filed for bankruptcy. Callon Petroleum (NYSE: CPE), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK), Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO), and Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) will probably file for bankruptcy in 2020.

    An oil industry recovery will depend on price improvement and the speed with which it happens. Prices will probably remain low, and the sector will suffer despite the market recovery. Given the possible bankruptcies of small and medium-sized companies, this will lead to an increase in the concentration of supply. Equally, there will be a fall in profits in State-owned oil companies, which will not go bankrupt because of the support of their governments.

    Because of this negative environment in the industry, the possibility of more significant investment in alternative energies and consequently, a deepening of the change in the energy matrix can happen. China and its leadership in photovoltaic energy, in particular, have invested in renewable projects and benefits from the boom in the electric car sector in that country; as a substitute for fossil fuels.

    In addition to China, the EU has taken the threats of climate change seriously and has, therefore, proposed to phase out the oil energy matrix. By 2030 it is expected that on average renewable energies will represent about 30% of the total consumed (more information). Countries such as Sweden, which in 2017 obtained 55% of its electricity from renewable sources, Finland, Latvia, Denmark, Austria, Montenegro, and Albania, get energy from renewable sources at a rate of more than 30%. Even the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, has launched a mechanism to offer loans to projects and manufacturers of components related to alternative energy.

    The oil industry is going through both a cyclical and structural crisis. The market will recover in a short time, although prices will remain low, as well as profitability low. The current crisis and the fall in prices complicate the scenario for investment in alternative energy sources, even though these will replace oil and other fossil fuels in much of the world in the medium term. In view of the current climate crisis, however, it is urgent to continue consolidating projects to make energy clean and oil obsolete.

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    Vuelve Keynes: el coronavirus derrotó al neoliberalismo

    La teoría del “sálvese quien pueda” de los economistas neoliberales ha sido arrasada por el coronavirus. La sociedad y el Estado existen. Son siempre imprescindibles para que sobrevivan las personas, y ello queda hoy al desnudo en medio de la pandemia atroz.

    El Financial Times, destacado periódico liberal, pero inteligente, nos dice en su editorial del 3 de abril:

    “Se requieren reformas radicales para forjar una sociedad que funcione para todos. La pandemia de coronavirus ha expuesto la fragilidad de la economía de muchos países”.

    “La pandemia del Covid-19 ha inyectado una sensación de solidaridad en sociedades polarizadas. Pero el virus, y los cierres de empresas necesarios para combatirlo, también arrojan una reveladora luz sobre las desigualdades existentes, e incluso crean nuevas desigualdades”.

    La crisis económica que se anuncia será tan dura como la que se conoció durante la depresión de los años treinta. En aquella época, la teoría económica clásica, de corte liberal, y sus defensores no consiguieron responder frente al sistema capitalista en estado de descomposición. Tuvo que venir John Maynard Keynes a salvarlo. Keynes no era un socialista, pero entendió que los desmanes del capitalismo eran consecuencia de la ausencia de regulación en los mercados, así como de la incapacidad de las políticas públicas ortodoxas para enfrentar las crisis económicas.

    Keynes propuso incrementar el gasto público para estimular la inversión y disminuir el desempleo. Confiaba en que la intervención del Estado en la economía podía moderar la crisis capitalista. Sostenía que el desempleo se debía a una insuficiencia de demanda y no a un desequilibrio en el mercado de trabajo. Entonces, cuando la demanda agregada se hacía insuficiente, las ventas disminuían y el desempleo crecía. Precisamente lo que está sucediendo ahora en Chile y en todo el mundo.

    El presidente Roosevelt le creyó a Keynes y siguió rigurosamente su pensamiento cuando instaló el New Deal para recuperar la economía norteamericana de la recesión. Su segundo discurso de investidura, en 1937, es muy sabio:

     “El interés propio, egoísta, suponía una mala moral; ahora sabemos que también era una mala economía”.

    En aquellos años, entonces, desde la mala economía liberal se pasaba al modelo keynesiano, que proponía la intervención del Estado en los mercados, mediante: el descenso de las tasas de interés; aumento del gasto público, especialmente en inversión en infraestructuras, con el fin de potenciar la demanda efectiva; una activa redistribución de la renta; y, por último, una política comercial proteccionista, para defender los empleos de las industrias nacionales.

    El keynesianismo orientó el desarrollo de la mayor parte de los países capitalistas al terminar la Segunda Guerra Mundial. La política fiscal progresiva, el control de los mercados de capital, las transferencias sociales significativas y un mayor equilibrio entre el capital y el trabajo, no se tradujeron en impactos negativo en el crecimiento económico. Por el contrario, las economías y la productividad se expandieron notablemente, mientras las desigualdades se reducían. Se construye así el mayor éxito social del siglo XX: el Estado del bienestar.

    Lamentablemente, la inflación y el aumento de los costos de producción en los años 70 y 80 enterraron el keynesianismo. Se siguieron los consejos de los economistas Hayek y Milton Friedman: mercado salvaje en vez de un nuevo acuerdo societario. En efecto, para contener la inflación, los Estados impusieron una rigurosa disciplina fiscal y la elevación de las tasas de interés, medidas que golpearon los derechos sociales y a las pequeñas empresas. Al mismo tiempo, los grandes empresarios, para reducir costos de producción apelaron a trasladar industrias a países con salarios bajos, como el caso de China. Así se achicaron los Estados, se enriqueció el 1% y las desigualdades adquirieron proporciones inéditas.

    Ahora que el brote de Codiv-19 se ha convertido en pandemia, la debacle de la economía neoliberal comienza con el colapso de los servicios sanitarios públicos. Y le sigue el shock económico y social, con esa inmensa cantidad de informales generada por un sistema de mercado, que privilegia la especulación financiera en vez de las actividades productivas. A ello se agregan los cientos de miles de pequeños empresarios, que viven al día, con créditos usureros de la banca. Finalmente, están los trabajadores asalariados que, en el caso de Chile, cuentan con un precario seguro de desempleo, que alcanza apenas para seis meses.

    El Financial Times, en su editorial nos advierte:

    “Los gobiernos deben aceptar un rol más activo en la economía. Deben ver los servicios públicos como una inversión y no como un lastre, y buscar modos para que el mercado del trabajo no sea tan inseguro. La redistribución (de la riqueza) debe volver a estar en la agenda; los privilegios de los ricos deben ser cuestionados. Políticas que hasta hace poco eran consideradas excéntricas, como el salario mínimo y los impuestos a la riqueza, deben estar en el programa”.

    Este es el camino a seguir. No hay otro. En Chile y el mundo entero habrá que enviar al basurero de la historia al neoliberalismo y a sus economistas.

    En el corto plazo, la inyección masiva de liquidez en la economía, con ingresos para asalariados e informales, junto a créditos baratos para los pequeños empresarios es la única receta posible. Ya no se puede creer en el funcionamiento automático e infalible de los mercados. La perplejidad de la empresa privada ante la situación de crisis ha colocado al Estado como el agente fundamental para restituir el sistema económico.

    Para el mediano plazo la lección del coronavirus es ineludible. Derechos sociales universales en salud, educación, vivienda y pensiones, entregados por el Estado. Y, en el ámbito productivo, transformar la matriz productiva desde las actividades primarias hacia la industria y otros bienes y servicios que incorporen inteligencia y tecnología en los procesos de transformación

    El neoliberalismo se ha quedado sin argumentos teóricos para revertir la situación que estamos viviendo. Keynes retorna en gloria y majestad. Que lo sepan los economistas que se convirtieron en defensores de la injusticia

    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    West First Policies Expose Myths

    As the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic shifts from China to the developed West, all too many rich countries are acting selfishly, invoking the ‘national interest’, by banning exports of vital medical supplies.

    US President Donald Trump has reportedly gone further by seeking exclusive rights to a future coronavirus vaccine, although the report has been denied by a German drug company and some investors believed to be involved.

    Europe first
    Following France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland now also want to ban the export of certain types of protective equipment and gear, prompting Stella Kyriakides, the EU Health Commissioner, to contradict them, insisting instead that “Solidarity is key”.

    Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, also appealed to EU governments to reconsider their export restrictions on medical supplies, including personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

    Nevertheless, the EU has since announced export restrictions on medical supplies needed for the COVID-19 pandemic to countries outside the European single market, ignoring earlier pledges when developing countries were reluctant to commit to EU-promoted ‘free trade’.

    This EU response may trigger export restrictions by non-EU countries which now have little reason not to turn to China and other ‘non-traditional’ suppliers instead. After all, the EU imports US$17.6 billion of medical products, the category it has now imposed export controls on.

    Furthermore, supply chains for European medical equipment production, such as ventilation machines produced in Germany and Switzerland, use parts that cross the EU’s external borders, sometimes more than once.

    Meanwhile, some major developing countries have retaliated with similar measures, with India and China restricting medical equipment exports. Although India has reversed some restrictions on mask exports, allowing some to go to China, export bans remain on 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and some products made with them, such as paracetamol.

    Already, export bans have widened to some essential non-medical products, e.g., with Kazakhstan banning some key food exports since 22 March. However, such moves are ultimately short-sighted and self-defeating as COVID-19 contagion knows no borders.

    It is also in the rich world’s self-interest to help poor countries, just as imperial powers were once very concerned about infectious diseases, such as malaria, in their colonies which threatened to damage their own interests in the longer term.

    Solidarity, not isolation
    Dangerously, such selfish moves are politically attractive, with Trump’s approval ratings hitting an all-time high. Much of the US public agrees with Trump blaming China for the COVID-19 outbreak, with some senior UK Tory politicians joining the chorus, warning that China will face ‘a reckoning’ over it.

    With the Western media seeing commercial and strategic considerations as behind all China’s actions, much of the North views China’s offers of help with great suspicion as ‘medical diplomacy’.

    To the consternation of US and UK leaders, China’s offers of cooperation have been welcomed by most of the developing world and many in the developed world as well.

    As soon as available in early January, China shared its findings on the genetic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19. This has allowed researchers around the world to study how it makes people sick, and to quickly work on testing, tracing, treatment and prevention.

    At last week’s Saudi-convened virtual G20 emergency meeting, China announced it will increase its supplies to international markets of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities and other supplies to cope with the pandemic.

    Other developing countries are also offering to help despite their own limited means. India has offered rapid response teams and other expertise to deal with the crisis in the region besides offering US$10 million to start an emergency South Asian regional fund to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Despite suffering from US-led sanctions for six decades, with its record of sending medical teams to scores of developing countries, Cuba has joined China in sending doctors and nurses to Italy, and even to its former imperial ruler, Spain, in humanitarian solidarity.

    Crisis of humanity
    As many observers, even Time magazine, have emphasized, the Covid-19 crisis is not just one of health and the economy, but also has other dimensions. Covid-19 is already challenging our assumptions about humanity, about society, about greed and selfishness, about the need to cooperate.

    The pandemic has exposed fault lines in trust among humans, among groups, among countries, between citizens and governments, and faith in many of our assumptions about life, not only beliefs and humanity, but also knowledge itself.

    Thankfully, many of us still recoil in disbelief, shock and despair when we learn of those already infected who put others at risk, who ruin, destroy and compromise society’s already modest, inadequate existing health capacities through their selfish behaviour.

    Meanwhile, as with global warming deniers, a number of leaders and others with influence see the COVID-19 crisis as a minor blip, a temporary interruption before returning to ‘business as usual’, following a V-shaped recovery.

    We are beginning to doubt social media and many other previously trusted sources of information and knowledge, as we slowly realize that we are inundated with fake news, information and advice, not least by those we have become accustomed to trust, including family and friends.

    We are learning that purported ‘solutions’ often ultimately come from those with agendas of their own, resulting in self-interested promotion of egos, influence or business opportunities, e.g., to sell medical supplies or some other really or purportedly needed ‘solutions’, items and services.

    After COVID-19?
    We also need to begin to address and come to terms with what life is going to be like after we get past the lockdowns and other ‘inconveniences’ imposed by the virus and its consequences.
    This time, it is different, really different. And we will not be able to simply revert to ‘business as usual’ after we get over this crisis.

    By beginning to think about the desirable, we must also consider the realm of the possible, and address the probable or the likely to strive to ensure that post-COVID-19 life will also be more secure, equitable, inclusive and sustainable.

    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    What changed with the epidemic?

    The world has gone from having predictions of declining growth/recession to being faced with the first global economic downturn since the 1930s after China announced on December 31, 2019, they had the COVID 19. A decade after the financial crisis of 2008-09, we are facing a freeze in the economy worldwide, a phenomenon not seen before. The projected falls in GDP around the world are unprecedented. Oil prices are harmful, and stock markets are incredibly volatile, there is a hidden global economic crisis of dimensions not yet calculated.

    Never before in peacetime had a country closed its factories and not shipped its finished products. This time, manufacturing and foreign trade in China were frozen. The idea of global value chains that allow globally chained production lines is a late 20th-century creation and has as its starting point production in China. The result was that when factories in China closed, factories around the world were shut down for lack of supplies, and international trade collapsed. This is a remarkable first unexpected effect. The negative impact on China's production led to a global downturn.

    It had never been seen before that all services everywhere, closed simultaneously, except for a few countries. This has led to the closure of small businesses, restaurants, bakeries, convenience stores, department stores. Sports fields, various clubs, theaters, concert halls, cinemas, and spaces for mass socialization were left empty, and with them, the economic activity that moved in that space. The idea that this happens simultaneously all over the world is unthinkable. At the same time, it is a call of attention from nature.

    The planet is overpopulated, with nature over-exploited, climate change, congested cities, and extensive travel. We produce goods across the oceans, consume water from other continents, and, in so doing, they transport viruses. There is a habitat for viruses to mutate more aggressively and do what they have always done in history: adjust the population and draw attention to ways of living. Bubonic flu in the 14th century killed more than 50% of the people in the affected areas, which is almost the entire space between the Crimean peninsula and northern Spain (Navarra and Catalonia). It was a significant population adjustment that changed the idea of cities and the shape they should have and the ways to control the rats and rodents populations.

    It was in the last four decades that HIV, Ebola, aviar, and swine fever pandemics have been observed and now the COVID 19. That is, over four decades, there are more deaths from pandepidemics than in the rest of history. This says something about climate change, the movement of people and goods around the world, and how citizens' defences have been lowered. What's new now is that we'll live to see the next epidemic coming.

    The contemporary societal lesson will be to have new forms of human contact, new ways of working, of transport, of shopping, of having classes and inevitably, of having a cultural life. Global value chains must be rethought, and industrialization policies must be reconsidered. Public health, as a public good, must return.

    Is it possible that private laboratories do research work for profit when what is being researched is how to prevent diseases that do not yet exist? Such was the coronavirus a semester ago. Or that exists with few patients, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? This research is about prevention, and that's not a private for-profit business but a public good. The idea of food security, as a concept, must also return. The de-privatization of land transport with clean energy is an inevitable trend that has momentum. For the private sector, mass transport using gasoline and diesel is more profitable, but for humanity, clean energy, more expensive transport is healthier.

    Cities as polluted as Santiago, Sao Paulo, and Lima suddenly saw nature reborn, and the air cleared. Beaches look cleaner, and wildlife returns to their trees. The nights are starry again. Dolphins swim in Venice, and rivers flow transparent down from the Andes. This has been a wake-up call that if we don't change our way of living, producing and consuming, the next pandemic will be worse.

    The collapse of the oil market indicates that this source of energy is no longer a solid bet for the future. Perhaps it suggests that the change in the energy matrix is more advanced than we have been aware of. Projections are for a recovery by the end of the year. Will it be? We'll never go back to the world we had before this epidemic. Now is the time to think about the future from a different perspective.

     

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    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica

    Without Universal Health Coverage We Are Sitting Ducks When the next Pandemic Strikes

    NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2020 (IPS) - We live in a different world to the one we inhabited six short months ago.

    With more than 4 million people infected and over 280,000 dead globally by mid May 2020, Covid-19 has ruthlessly exposed the vulnerability of a globalised world to pandemic disease. People are slowly coming to terms with the frightening and heartbreaking death toll, and we are still not out of the danger.

    The Greek philosopher Herophilus said, “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

    The bio-threat has already upended our notions of community interaction, with face masks, latex gloves and physical distancing becoming the new normal. Science has been challenged and experts in various fields struggle to understand the short and long-term consequences of the pandemic.

    Lack of robust global public health systems has proven to be a chink in the world’s armour. It has also revealed a truth that we ignore at our peril: healthcare systems around the world have been sorely tested in managing this outbreak, and without substantial reprioritisation of investment in health and research globally, we will be no better equipped when the next pandemic strikes.

    Describing COVID 19 as a threat multiplier, the UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms Amina Mohammed said, “We have a health emergency, a humanitarian emergency and now a development emergency. These emergencies are compounding existing inequalities”.

    While no country has been spared, the impact upon families and individuals has varied around the world, exposing huge global and local inequalities.

    The consequences of high uninsured rates and high out-of-pocket health costs are being revealed. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, more than 100 million people per year risked being plunged into poverty by a ‘shock’ in terms of unanticipated expenditure on medical treatment.

    World Food Programme analysis shows that, due to the Coronavirus, an additional 265 million people are marching towards the brink of starvation by the year end because of the virus’s effects on jobs and family finances.

    The social and economic upheaval we face today has changed the world and will go on changing it for many years. Behind the headlines of an economic decline that might rival the Great Depression of the 1930s are families separated by closed international borders, some mourning relatives they never managed to see and comfort, and millions who no longer have jobs.

    What must we do to prevent the next pandemic striking the world.

    Like rain that exposes a leaking roof, the coronavirus crisis has revealed unanticipated problems inherent in our dependence on global supply chains and amplified longstanding structural deficiencies in health systems around the world. We can see now that under-investment in public health in one country is a threat to global health security everywhere. Responses to health emergencies cannot succeed if any part of the world is left behind.

    The central importance of universal health coverage and ensuring healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, as manifested in Sustainable Development Goal 3, (SDG3) by 2030, is clear.

    With Africa’s population expected to grow to 2.3 billion by 2050, for Africa to reap a demographic dividend, as well as prevent disease outbreaks, Governments should:

    1. Reassess policy priorities and direct greater funding to health.
    2. Invest more in disease prevention.
    3. Improved working conditions for medical staff.
    4. Offer fit-for-purpose health insurance to their people.
    5. Harness big data, technology, and innovation to leapfrog universal health coverage.
    6. Forge public private partnerships to address the gaps to attain SDG 3.
    7. Create an army of community health workers.

    The WHO Chief, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a public health champion, who as Minster of Health in Ethiopia, a country once notorious for the highest maternal and child mortality in Africa, ensured the country achieved the health related Millennium Development Goals, by unleashing the full potential of community health workers. He said that, “By fully harnessing the potential of community health workers, including by dramatically improving their working and living conditions, we can make progress together towards universal health coverage and achieving the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

    Doctors, nurses, carers and paramedics around the world are facing unprecedented workload in overstretched health facilities. The heroism, dedication and selflessness of medical staff allow the rest of us a degree of reassurance. In fact health workers are the frontline soldiers battling the pandemic. They deserve the same recognition and respect as women and men from the Armed Forces who are sent into battle in service of their country.

    Additionally, the creation of robust health surveillance infrastructure in low-income countries will benefit the whole world in terms of early warning of disease outbreaks, and the ability to focus resources where and when they are needed.

    To achieve this, new models of multilateral and public private partnerships must develop, as well reform, invest and give greater power to the World Health Organisation to protect the world from disease.

    As citizens of the world we depend on one another. We are linked by trade and migration and the fact of our humanity as much as we are sometimes divided by politics and faith.

    Consider this. Maria Branyas is a 113 year old COVID 19 survivor from Spain. It means she has lived through the flu pandemic of 1918-19, the two World Wars, the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and now the coronavirus. When asked what was the secret of her long life, she said, “good health”.

    In a post-Covid-19 world, global health must be seen as a key component of national and global security as well as of the global economy.

    SDG 3 must become pivotal in our post COVID 19 response or we may be sitting ducks, when another pandemic strikes, whose velocity and virulence could surpass what we are witnessing now.

    Tema de investigación: 
    Crisis económica