A self-induced crisis, the greatest in a century; deliberately triggered by almost all of humanity to save lives because only isolation could protect them. A crisis with immense costs: hundreds of millions of jobs lost or threatened; the disappearance of more than $25 trillion in savings invested in listed companies; and even greater losses for those who invested in other smaller unlisted companies, which are often the sole assets of an entrepreneur, restaurateur, garage owner; and so many others.
If we take a quick look at the sums committed to overcome this crisis, we may feel that all of the teller windows are indefinitely open: The Central Banks have announced that they will spend unlimited amount; the States are letting deficits skyrocket. In particular, the European Union is currently debating whether it will additionally spend between 400 billion to 1.5 trillion, which will be guaranteed by national budgets. In total, more than 10 trillion dollars are involved in this battle. This sum represents about 10% of the world’s GDP.
This money, more or less imaginary, borrowed from future generations, and legitimately allocated to ensure the survival of everything that is impacted by this voluntary shut down of the economy only really makes sense if we are convinced that we will soon be able to put an end to this crisis.
That is not the case. And it will not be the case unless we come to the realization, as soon as possible, that the global economy will never recover if we do not decide on two priorities on a global scale.
The first priority is associated with the long-term, which I have been discussing here for a month now and that I call “the economy of life,” on which everything else depends: health, hygiene, food, education, research, clean energy, distribution of resources, security, digital technology, culture and information. Most of our efforts must be devoted to these sectors. Furthermore, we must redirect the effort that we spend elsewhere to these sectors.
The second priority is associated with the short term, which is even more urgent and more obvious, and yet very little is being spent toward it: the medicine and the vaccine that will stop this pandemic. For we must face the reality that without a drug or a vaccine, the self-isolation measures will have to continue for years to come, at least in large parts of the world and for large parts of the world’s population.
No one, however, is really talking about this obvious urgency: there is controversy here and there about the possible effectiveness of this or that old drug, and some sporadic and remote research projects that are mentioned: No drug for another year. No vaccine for two years. That’s what they have said.
Nothing, at least not on a massive scale, is being done to shorten these deadlines. Neither the Governments whose responsibility it is, nor the so-called GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon), which had promised to defeat mortality, seem to care much about it. Apart from a few major research centres in the world, which are working on this matter with few resources and on forced march and a few billionaires (Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, who will devote a third of his personal fortune, or a billion dollars to this cause, and Bill Gates, who stands ready to mass-produce vaccines on a global scale when it is developed), the rest accounts for nothing or almost nothing.
We know the cost: according to the World Health Organization, it will take $53 billion to conduct successful and rapid research on vaccines and drugs, and then develop and distribute them. This is nothing compared to the amount committed and allocated to other matters to keep the global economy afloat.
And yet this money has not been found. No one has launched this massive project on which everything depends. It is strange to be stunned by what is at stake here. We were able to do it to go to the moon. We are doing it now to get to Mars. And now, when every single life on the planet depends on it, would we not do anything about it? We have gone haywire.
France, Europe, and the world, instead of being content to shower imaginary trillions of dollars on companies on the verge of bankruptcy, would do better to additionally spend as quickly as possible, $50 billion on massive research programmes to find these vaccines and medicines. Success on this front would prevent these companies from going bankrupt. And there is no doubt that these programs will succeed. The sooner we do it, the better.