The Fluid Society

Corona exit through competition or more cooperation?

Now that the corona pandemic is widespread, all governments in the world are purchasing medical devices, medicines and equipment. The hallmark of a pandemic is that it is developing exponentially. This means in practice that there was almost immediately a lack of all necessary equipment. So every government went to great lengths to stock up on as much stuff as possible for its own population, and preferably a little more. Hoarding at the government level is no different than at the individual level. Own people first.

The result of this is also that more and more countries are trying to make all the necessary goods themselves again. Back to own production, because delivery from abroad is not guaranteed. What is the effect of this? First of all, it is a hopeless situation for the poorer countries. They were affected a little later by the corona virus and now notice that there is nothing left on the world market. Or only for prohibitively high prices.

Furthermore, it is quite silly that all 187 countries in the world will all make their own mouth masks, respirators, test sets, test apps, and many other goods. That is not only inefficient and expensive. Again, it is a major problem for poorer countries. How long does it take for them to make face masks themselves? How should these countries develop Apps? Can they afford the cost of making respirators?

The “each man for himself” mentality takes us back to the old days, where the weaker countries will lose out. After the corona virus, they will end up in an even deeper economic crisis than the rich Western countries. Eventually they will have to cross the bridge to help those countries. It would therefore be wise to show solidarity already and to ensure that these countries also receive a fair share of the necessary aid. While in the meantime the rich countries should scale up their productions to further supply these countries.

But there are even more effects. What is the value of a national App if you cannot use that App in another country? Everyone would like to visit another country after this lockdown? And then we would like to be protected by our App. A national App is then completely useless. International cooperation and coordination in the design therefore seems necessary. Why not cooperate with the Big Tech companies, which are undoubtedly faster and better able to launch a globally applicable and robust App than hundreds of different governments.

And the manufacture of a corona vaccine? Is every country going to do that itself? Or do we leave this to the commercial pharmacists? With the risk of high prices? Would it not be wise, while still possible, to combine the strengths of Universities and pharmaceutical companies worldwide under one large, global government fund, with the mission to make that vaccine as soon as possible for everyone in the world, at a reasonable price? And to ensure that the intellectual property of that vaccine belongs to what is called a global public good? Wouldn’t that go faster and be cheaper?

As for medicines to fight the disease itself. Hundreds of studies are being conducted at universities and pharmaceutical companies worldwide. Should this not be the same as for a vaccine: transfer all knowledge on a global scale to perhaps a WHO Commission and ensure that with public money in various places in the world as soon as possible, for everyone in the world, including the poorer countries, sufficient medicines are made and available for a reasonable cost?

And is it wise because of economic optimizations that the main generic medicines can only be made, given raw materials, by China and India? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to create different production environments all over the world with the assignment to always supply the world with these medicines at reasonable prices?

If there is one moment when the world should show mutual solidarity, it is now in this terrible pandemic. Unfortunately, politicians only show opportunistic behaviour to please their own people. That is not in solidarity with the countries that may be hit hardest. And the Western countries will be rightly blamed for this. But it is also unwise because the ‘own people first’ mentality is also inefficient, delaying and expensive for the rich countries themselves.

With some billions and a powerful global approach, virtually all diseases, Ebola, Malaria, Flu, Corona, could be controlled for all countries. With the current self-centred approach, hundreds of thousands of people are dying and the economies of all countries have been severely damaged for years, totalling many thousands of billions of Euros. In short, a little international solidarity and cooperation would not be a bad decision.

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