These are strange times, throughout the world… people are dying more than ever from strange diseases; others, who were not prepared for these torments, are faced with unemployment, poverty, and hunger; even entire industrial sectors are on the verge of collapse.
On the surface, much is being done to fight these disasters: the world is already engaged in this battle, 12.5 trillion dollars. It has to be spelled out in plain language to measure its significance.
This money, however, as immense as it may seem, only measures the extent of the procrastination of the leaders who were paralysed by the scale of the crisis:
In the United States, any real action is suspended until the results of the next presidential elections. In Europe, we are waiting to act on an agreement for a European fund that is announced to be magnificent; and the last European Council succeeded in the tour de force of talking about nothing else, without deciding. In France, everything depends on the municipal elections, cabinet reshuffle, and a thousand other pretexts; neither the government nor the parliament seems to be thinking of anything other than plugging the holes; the so-called “grand débat ” (great debate) has led to proposals that could have been implemented if this Covid-19 crisis had not occurred; and we hear nothing but empty speeches of more or less fake mobilisation.
The pandemic has shown that one lost week means tens of thousands of deaths. Similarly, each day that we lose will make it more difficult to respond to the economic crisis. Every day, debts are exploding, layoffs and bankruptcies continue to multiply; no one knows how to answer the urgent questions: how to make economies work while under the threat of new lockdown measures? How can knowledge be passed on to all the students who will not be able to go to university at the start of the new academic year? How can we give work to the tens of millions of young people who are now entering the labour market? Is it necessary to save companies whose products are definitively unsaleable?
We cannot hope that the central banks, with its abstract constructions, and creating abstract money, will succeed durably in masking the lack of answers to these questions. One day, which is not very far away, we will see that these measures are only fictions. And everything will collapse.
I do not know, no one knows, whether this will happen in two, five, or ten years. Or before. The only thing that is certain is that it will happen. Unless we act fast. What needs to be decided is quite simple:
1. Prepare for a return of the pandemic, and other pandemics to come, by producing enough FFP2 masks, tests and tracking devices. For the entire planet. And do not let it be said that we already have them. We do not. Only a handful of Asia’s very few democracies are prepared for the worst.
2. Choose the sectors to invest the maximum resources so they can produce what we need to respond to this collapse. With the courage to explicitly call out these sectors by name: healthcare, hygiene, education, research, food, agriculture, digital, logistics, distribution, housing, clean energy, recycling, land use planning, democracy, culture, security, entertainment, media, insurance and credit.
3. Announce explicitly that certain other sectors, such as tourism, the automobile industry and textiles, may still have a great future, by adapting to new needs.
4. Acknowledge that many other sectors are the living dead. Zombies. And among them: cruises, fashion, oil, chemicals, plastics, aviation. And many others.
5. Start training young people who are entering the job market, and employees working in the zombie sectors, by paying them, so they may imagine, manufacture, and sell the goods and services of the sectors of the future.
There are some governments, mayors, and business leaders who have begun to understand this. They are, however, too rare. In particular, in France, we are far from being aware of the depth of the coming crisis and the urgency of the action to be taken.
If we continue down the path that we are on, we will pay a high price (in our private lives, as well as in the lives of our families, businesses, cities, and nations) for our cowardice, hypocrisy, self-satisfaction and procrastination.
Every day counts: the summer of 2020 will either be the summer of disaster or of an awakening.