Thirty years from today, a new world powered by robotics, artificial intelligence and quantum physics will be upon us. In that future, if a person incidentally ventures into a virtual library and looks for a digital history book on the 2020s, the reader will surely come upon a narrative on “The Great Pandemic.”
The story may describe how people around the world gave a heart-warming welcome to the year 2020. People celebrated the incoming year at squares, parties and cathedrals in New York, London, Lagos, Cape Town, Sydney and Tokyo. 2020 arrived peaceably and joyfully on Jan. 1 in most countries.
However, an uninvited and invisible guest tightly stuck to the New Year. This was a highly contagious and dangerous virus later named Covid-19. The virus brought on respiratory infections and physical anomalies in humans. It was transferred to humans from animals and killed millions and infected many more millions.
Covid-19 negatively impacted the world economy, driving it down to the tune of many trillions of dollars.
Rich and poor
Inequality between rich and poor, powerful and vulnerable, and the people stuck in between, has existed for millennia. That wealth inequality is overt in a society such as these Virgin Islands. The spectrum here ranges from the likes of the super wealthy like Sir Richard Branson, Henry Jarecki and Larry Page — who live largely invisibly in these islands — to the poor who live hand to mouth on handouts from charity, family and friends.
Much of the world went into lockdown in March 2020 when it was clear that shutting down society was the one sure way of controlling the spread of the contagion. That shutdown was complete in some places, eerily turning great cities of the world into veritable ghost towns.
The lockdown period changed the lives of millions. The better-off, however, were able to spend time with family, as they did not feel the pinch of lost income.
Residents — especially workers in travel and tourism, a mainstay for employment in the VI and elsewhere — lost jobs, livelihoods and even homes. They were unable to earn the accustomed income.
Lockdown forced residents to stay at home. Businesses went under and shut for good.
However, the people at the top of the wealth pyramid were unscathed. In fact, by some cruel trick, billionaires and stockholders in technology became wealthier as the world became a virtual marketplace as a result of Covid-19.
Towards the bottom of the pyramid, the adversity and suffering increased greatly. Migrant workers, daily wage earners, waitresses, bartenders, small-business owners, cleaners, taxi drivers, and so on were severely impacted. These workers were driven into poverty and great suffering.
The people at the middle of the pyramid — such as government workers and middle managers in private firms — were affected, but not as drastically as those at the bottom of the pyramid.
Worse to come
The world of pandemic recession will get worse, sadly. Employment is a lagging indicator of economic recovery. So when the world begins to recover, probably in early 2022 after a vaccine for Covid-19 is widely available, only then will investor and business confidence return.
Consumer confidence appears after investor and business confidence increases. When people start to spend, aggregate demand increases. Then shut businesses will reopen, and managers and business owners will begin to invest in equipment and stock and hire workers again.
The world economy will resume normality and growth.
When that will happen? Only God knows.
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