A World of Black Swans.
No nation can long prosper cut off from the rest. US Foreign Policy needs to pivot and fast.
It often comes as a surprise to my audiences to learn that ours is not the richest economy. The US is around 9th in terms of nominal gdp per capita* at $63,000.The cluster of small states ahead of us include Monaco, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein ($100,000+). At our level there are larger economies such as Norway ($80,000) as well as Denmark, The Netherlands and Australia. For the record Germany, France and the UK are at $40 – 45,000.
These figures can be taken as rough surrogate for the likely capacity and resilience of each nations’ health services and economies. All are concerned at the prospect of being overwhelmed, none have adequate testing and follow through capability, all are experiencing staff burn out and economic challenge. And remember these are the global “Haves”. So spare a thought for the “Have Nots”.
Russia ($11000) with about 1/6th of US wealth is degenerating into a global epicenter of the disease. In India ($2000) leading cities such as Mumbai are collapsing. Mumbai has miles of slum districts sleeping 8 to a room. It has inadequate testing already and the monsoon season is two weeks away. Brazil ($9000) and Venezuela ( $8000) are in medical, economic and political free fall and there are more than 100 nations with even weaker economies than these culminating in the states of central Africa. Long haul truck drivers from the South Sudan ($450), Uganda ($750) and Kenya ($1500) are now reported transmitting the disease into other parts of the African continent.
And spare a thought too for the next round of challenge and confusion as Europe closes for its holiday season to bolster the ailing regional economies to the south, dependent on tourism. More than 27 million people, 12% of the EU labor force, have jobs in tourism. Emerging Eastern nations such as Croatia ( $14000) have already suffered a 99% drop in visits in April – its economy will collapse over the next few months. We are not immune to this. Alaska may have got by so far but the fishing and tourism seasons are just beginning here too. Thursday saw the launch of the annual Copper River Salmon fishing frenzy with coasting communities doubling in size and the first cases of corona disease emerging with the incoming workforce. Tourism in Alaska is already vin peril for this year.
And climate change will not be helping. India is not alone in bracing itself for the impact of an increasingly hostile environment. The tragedies unfolding in south America will only add to the migration northwards and already the lines of confrontation are being drawn in Europe ahead of a brutal migration stand off in the South.
This was an opportunity for a new leadership – for a new global collaboration – a pivot to an enlightened and mutually beneficial self help. But to our shame there has been no such thing. No leaders have appeared to coordinate, bring together and unify. There are no plans, simple steps both short and long term to cope with what is a fast approaching flock of black swans.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Have a good day, James.