Lessons Learnt from COVID-19 PandemicIbanda University
What lessons developing countries can learn from COVID-19 Pandemic and how should Uganda be prepared to overcome the economic shocks?
Justus Asasira (BA., MA)
Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Ibanda University
COVID-19 has hit whole world and this comes as a strong reminder to all nations that working in isolation is a very dangerous situation. If the world knew what was being studied and how the virus that was finally released or escaped would disrupt global economy, then it would have been avoided.
As a scholar of political economy, health policy and international development allow me share the following thoughts:
1). We can now understand that Karl Marx and his colleagues’ prediction of human nature and societal development as full of egos, antagonism, and classes struggles (high/low; rich/poor; strong/weak) are all true. In addition, Darwin’s theory of colonialism comes in handy to help us understand how the real world operates (global politics); the weak are conquered and brought under the leadership of strong societies. The strong societies have a right to colonize weaker societies. Had it not been the struggle between the strong nations to show how strong they are (Europe, America, China), we would not be suffering from this pandemic. The 21st century has advanced technology that would enable the world do things easily but we see a world that is totally locked, now movement of people across borders, no markets, limited economic and trade activities because of the same technology.
2). We have seen strong economies losing a sense of direction because they had not experienced this for over a century now (since 1918). I can add that the 1918 pandemic was not heavily felt as globalization had not intensified. Moreover, the world had just come to an end of the first World War, and the Spanish flue was a continuation of the (health war). Most countries during COVID-19 pandemic were protecting their economies over saving lives. Some countries like America, Italy, Spain and others have kept their capitalist of continuing to boosting their economies and forgetting that economic boom is an outcome of a health population. Priorities can vary from time to time. In such a situation the priority is health of the citizens. The national budgets should reflect such priorities. Globalization has led to emergence of a new group of citizen (Global citizens), they live everywhere, at any time, and have a home nowhere. Some of them with over 3 citizenships. During such a pandemic, you can’t know where they will prefer to live/call home, probably where the cases of COVID-19 are low. However, they may not actually be in what they prefer to call their home country since the world is locked now with limited if not no international travels. A home remains home and an English saying goes “East West, home is the best”
3). How can such an economic depression be avoided and enable economic stabilize?
i). Government should heavily invest in their health care systems. Most times, complicated health problems have been referred to India, UK, Germany and other nations with advanced health care systems that can manage those complications. This should change to enable nations build their own capacities in their health systems.
ii). Manufacturing and industrialization has remained neglected parts of economic transformation in developing nations. This will be hurting if developing countries cannot learn from such a pandemic. It is hard to predict the worst that could be coming. I am not a prophet.
iii). There has been limited support to the private sectors in all sub-sectors that are vital for economic transformation in most developing countries. This is the time to renew government commitment and support to such sectors. Also, establishing long lasting partnerships that will enable government get relieved of sheer burdens and overstretching itself.
iv). Vital sectors like health, education, trade & commerce, tourism have been groomed for centuries to operate in a traditional manner in developing countries. A wake up call is here, a must adopt technology and get to abreast of others in the developed world will save the Global South.
v). Without forgetting corruption which has become the only way of survival for those government or agencies by those in power. This is very wrong and must be condemned. A lot of finances have been lost in the name of corruption. Developing countries including Uganda would not be doing badly like this if this menace was tackled tactfully.
vi). Lastly on this, so many catastrophes have hit countries like Uganda almost at the same time; locust, L. Victoria, L. Kyoga, L. Albert water levels rising and affected hundreds of homesteads. This is a quadruple tragedy that needs to be dealt with utmost urgency. We are solving more problems at once which is more stressing to the economy and the citizens. We may be heading for other pandemics like cholera, polio etc. There is a need for the ministry of disaster preparedness and environment to ensure proper demarcation on swamps and other areas prone to natural calamities like floods.
4. Some of the short-term measures to overcome the economic effects of the pandemic include:
i). Changing priorities in terms of allocation for funding for the new financial year 2020/2021 to focus on key sectors e.g agriculture, health, reducing cost of utilities like electricity, water, and subsidize prices of oil products to ensure stable and affordable prices for goods and services.
ii). Governments should suspend budget allocations to long-term projects. These include road infrastructure, security, funding for electioneers etc.
iii). Citizens must adhere to guidelines to avoid COVID-19 and other ill-health e.g malaria.
iv). Borders must be secured to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t spread from the neighboring countries where cases are increasing day by day.
v). In collaboration with the banking sector, Bank of Uganda should ensure low interest rates to allow individuals or institutions to borrow money at low interest rates to support their families, business so enable steady recovery from the economic shock.
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences