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Published: April 26th 2020
Covid-19“I’m very much a believer that it’s action that matters much more so than, you know, the flurry of political promises and statements and slogans that are used during political discourse.” – Christine Lagarde
This sign is up for every single economy on Planet Earth.
The WHO dashboard as at 2.00am 26 April 2020 has the following statistics on their Covid-19 global dashboard (SA in brackets): Confirmed Cases: 2,774,135 (4,361) Deaths: 190,871 (86) New cases in last 24 hours: 93,109 (141)
Bottom line, we are very far off being out of the woods! No vaccine or cure in sight although there are numerous biochemical companies globally who are working frantically to find the silver bullet that can hasten an end to this nightmare event in our modern times.
Here in South Africa we have much to be proud of. The manner in which President Ramaphosa (CR) and his crisis team have handled the response to the pandemic has been hugely impressive. Luck was on our side as we came into this horrific, unforeseen event a little later than countries which had been smacked hard e.g. China, Spain and Italy. CR took control and did all the right things e.g. closing airports, banning foreign flights, closing
This innocuous particle is just bigger than the smallest particle of dust but......
borders and of course, imposing our very own lock down. There is no doubt the crisis team drew heavily on the planning and preventative measures introduced by countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong (although part of China, they have contained the spread of Covid-19 exceptionally well not forgetting the density of the population in that city). To date our rate of infections and deaths has not escalated at the frightening pace seen in many European countries and in particular, America. CR and his team, I suspect, understand crisply and clearly that we stand on the edge of a precipice of potential massive infections and the nation-wide lock down is the only way to try and measure the rate of infection and additionally prepare hospital bed and critical care capacity so that we are better prepared if we fall off the cliff.
During the course of this last week, CR was once again leading from the front having astutely used his head honcho on the crisis team, Professor Karim, to inform the nation that we could not drop our guard for one second. Karim did not hold back and spelt out the realities of what could happen
The new norm and may need to get used to this for a longer time than expected. Who knows?
if we as a nation did not observe the full implications of the crisis. CR, despite massive pressure from many corners of society, stuck to the script and an extremely comprehensive and well thought out “Staged approach” was announced. Officially we remain in lock down but certain concessions for key industries and services was announced and the country moved to Stage 4. Ironic to have set up a blueprint using the term “stage” given this word has become a serious part of our lexicon due entirely to ESKOM. So, we have a new form of load shedding to deal with!
This is all good news based on common sense and bold leadership. But, sprinting alongside this Covid-19 pandemic is an economic meltdown which is almost impossible to quantify. It is estimated that SA’s loss of GDP is R13 billion per day. Really? We don’t know what we don’t know so this number is a thumb suck that could be wrong by a huge margin. Our economy was in the bush long before this virus emerged from China. We were technically in or entering recession, GDP growth for a good few years has been tepid, unemployment up at around 30 percent and the ratings agencies consigning us to the junk yard. The real issue is that the lock down has had a massive economic cost which simply mutates and gets worse by the day. Following the example of major first World countries, it was time for CR to once again step up to the podium and announce our very own rescue plan with measures to try and protect a battered economy and importantly, provide aid for the poor and destitute. A R500 billion package was announced which is about 10 percent of GDP and CR charmed the nation with yet another masterful speech on national television. But there is a significant gap between statements and pronunciations and getting the job done. Firstly, this amount of money will find its way into many corners of Govt. and one prays and hopes that it doesn’t unleash another frenzy of looting and corruption. CR talks often about the need to end and deal with the rampant corruption we have all witnessed, yet there is very little to show for actual action by way of people being charged, arrested and incarcerated. Secondly, CR has spoken repeatedly of the need to rebuild the economy and a promised “new dawn” but on his watch the economy has actually weakened considerably and many of the incompetent and compromised politicians who attached themselves like limpets to Zuma, are still in positions of power. Clearly there is a distinct line between talking and talking and then walking the talk which is not understood in many quarters of the ANC. And then, the SOE landscape heralds another list of abject failures and there is still no practical solution in sight for the likes of SAA, Eskom and others. In this past week alone the Land Bank of South Africa announced that it is likely to default on its loans, a soft way of saying “gone bust.” What, you may ask, has this got to do with Covid-19? For the citizens of this country, it is CR and his leadership that are entrusted with taking the crucial steps to heal our economy at some point in the future when this virus finally abates. Given their abysmal track record, can they deliver? Woven into CR’s speeches in recent weeks has been reference to a “substantial infrastructure build”, “the transformation of our economy” and “embarking on all other steps that will ignite inclusive economic growth.” These are impressive sound bites but as always, they need to be tempered with the reality that we have heard this all before. This brief summary may have a negative tone to it but you cannot dodge the bullets of reality and the stakes are incredibly high for SA Inc if we don’t get this economic recovery absolutely right!
The third dimension to Covid-19 developing legs and a momentum all of its own is the China conundrum.
The documentary mentioned in the last blog has now found its way onto YouTube
which means it has gone viral and had millions of viewings. I had comments following the blog expressing disbelief at the truth or otherwise of the information shared which is understandable given the gravity of what the Chinese may or may not have done. There is a website by name of Snopes.com
which describes itself as the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource. Despite a comprehensive search, there was no mention of this documentary. Further internet fact check searches revealed very little. There has been a backlash. (1) Australia, one of China’s most important trade partners, is calling for the removal of the Head of the WHO due to his dodgy ties to the Chinese. (2) America (Donald Trump) has pulled the plug on America’s $60 million contribution to the WHO which is double what the Chinese contribute. (3) Europe has closed ranks and indicated that it will monitor very closely any commercial deals with Chinese entities. Too late for Italy which is practically owned by China. (4) Japan has announced a huge stimulus package to attract investment and manufacturing away from China. (5) There is a growing demand from a number of influential quarters around the World to conduct an independent enquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. Not unsurprisingly, China is resisting fiercely claiming innocence and that they have done nothing wrong. (6) China is aggressively promoting “China’s new Silk Road” which is all about China building a massive infrastructural reach into many countries so that it can continue its rapid growth rate (at any cost?). Sentiment has swung to some degree with some countries cancelling projects linked to this. Once again, this will involve the Chinese making massive loans to cash hungry countries e.g. Sri Lanka and Pakistan. End result, countries become massively indebted to China as evidenced by Sri Lanka being recently forced to cede a newly developed port to a Chinese company in turn for some relief on the US8 billion it owed. Is this not so subtle Chinese manipulation for self-gain, good or bad? I leave it for the reader to decide. Daily we are inundated with all sorts of Covid-19 information. Impossible to digest all of it but one inescapable fact is that our World and how we live and work in it, will be very different post this pandemic. More to follow.
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