There’s little doubt that the western world is heading for a deep recession the likes of which we have not seen for around a century. Maybe more. Normally recessions creep up on you, a bit like indigestion. The odd thing about this one is that we’ve been watching the slow motion train wreck for many months but have been unable to course correct due to lockdown constraints.
We know for sure that an economic depression is coming, like we know ABBA will perform one last concert and the earth will keep getting warmer. We know that Big Mac and fries will never drop off our most wanted list whatever Greenpeace throw at us. And we know that for some strange reason no barrage of new sitcoms can ever quite live up to ‘Friends’.
We also know that 100% of our combined energies and resources have been focused on surviving Covid-19. A bit like the Brits have focused the last four years on Brexit or Macron has been keeping those nice yellow vested people at bay. While Trump has spent the last few years being, well Trump.
We’ve been so focused on surviving the pandemic and paying fast track lifelines to businesses and workers that governments have neglected to ensure that these subsidies and grants also fix some of the problems that were so neatly usurped by the virus. Like we failed to level up the sacrifices made by every citizen during the banking crisis of 2008. This time we should introduce a greenish new deal, so we don't get quite as stuffed the next time around. This is not all that nature is going to throw at us. There's plenty more in store.
The virus has laid bare a number of our common achilles heals: healthcare systems and approaches; diversity and inequality; universal education; climate change and mobility.
We need to make sure that the money spent to solve the pandemic doesn't just get us safely back to where we were before but get’s us to a better place. A place that’s greener and healthier, more equal and just. A 21st century model. You know, like Disneyland - except real.
We need a new, new deal. We need to invest in a post pandemic future. That draws a line behind the failings of the previous model. One that makes our planet safer and makes us healthier and happier. It could look a little like this.
A Greenish New deal:
Healthcare- we have to learn the lessons from Covid-19 that laid bare pretty much every healthcare system and pandemic response procedure. This will not be the end of Coronavirus and Covid-19 will not be the last major pandemic we face. Healthcare systems should become more universal and better resourced across the gamut of public health from hospitals and specialist research centres to surgeries and care homes. Countries will need to develop national emergency stockpiles of PPE, ventilators and testing tools. We should train more healthcare professionals with a stronger focus on diversity and with better benefits. Countries should invest in strategic research and developing an in-country healthcare industry with a strong focus on digital healthcare. A centralised pandemic response office ought to be established, probably at cabinet level.
Diversity & Inequality- the current crisis has made it clear how much further we have to go to create opportunity for all. It’s time for leading nations to look hard at universal basic income (UBI). You could argue that UBI would have been the simplest, most pertinent and inclusive approach to tackling state taxpayer payouts during lockdown. It was a huge opportunity missed not to have used the crisis to test UBI for a one-off six month crisis response to Coronavirus. The learnings might have been invaluable. With the ensuing shift to digital, AI and all things automation UBI might become an essential tool in the battle against unemployment as machines increasingly replace workers. We also need to create a 21st century economic model that retains the strengths and benefits of capitalism while modernising it so that it becomes more inclusive and compassionate. The black lives matter movement requires a response once and for all to eradicate racism, bias and disadvantage across all walks of life. Some traditions will need to be well and truly left behind in the shift to a more diverse, open and educated society. Bold, visionary leadership is necessary to transition us to a better socio-economic model with inclusivity and opportunity for all at its heart.
Education- education has been interrupted and weakened through the pandemic - sometimes unnecessarily. Education systems were not equipped to deal with Coronavirus. Schools and colleges, like offices, will need to accept that technology, mobility and new ways of learning mean that they will have to embrace hybrid, online plus in-school learning to defy future pandemics and develop higher quality, universally accessible learning for all. There should be a drive to reimagine learning campuses with cutting edge designs which address flexible class sizes, digital learning, diet, health and wellbeing, hygiene, outdoors activity, nature, culture and sport. On the back of this governments should invest in a major building programme for these new look schools.
Climate change- we’ve written a huge amount about climate change and solutions to address it. Governments must now invest in a green recovery so long as it is inclusive of the other items on this list. We hope that leaders can follow templates like ours for how towns and cities can achieve net zero and beyond. Economic strategies need to take into account natural capital models and approaches. All major economies should invest in environmental research and industry, eco-travel and tourism, education and training. It is the future.
Mobility- as the Coronavirus pandemic has forced countries to close borders and face inwardly, Covid-19 exit plans should embrace open borders, open trade and citizen mobility across regions, industries and opportunities as well as across borders. The new generation of millennials want multiple work experiences in different organisations, industries and cultures. Mobility in society is an important recipe for sustainable socio-economic prosperity and stability. Citizens may need to look beyond their indigenous borders to find work in the recession that is unfolding - we must not hold them back or try to lock them in. But we should create enticing and sustainable opportunities for them at home. Indeed, we should look at training and development initiatives to ensure our laid off workers can find employment through the greenish new deal.
We have a unique opportunity to emerge from the pandemic and the economic uncertainty like a pheonix from the ashes. Returning to the lame duck we entered as would be the ultimate sin. A once in a lifetime opportunity missed.
Our children and their children deserve better. For now, it's up to us.
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