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Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate

Spring 2021: Back to Health

After years of growing suspicion toward the latest wave of digital technologies and the companies and governments that control them, Beyond the Techlash brings together economists, technologists, policymakers, and business leaders to consider how the lost promise of twenty-first-century innovation can be reclaimed.

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Project Syndicate
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in deze editie

2 min
editors’ note

ONCE THE VIRUS WENT GLOBAL, no country was spared. Health services, education, employment, social life, and basic mobility all were upended or sharply curtailed more or less overnight. By the spring of 2021, the global death toll from COVID-19 had surpassed three million. Lockdown orders to limit the spread of the virus had brought entire sectors to a halt, setting the stage for some $10 trillion of lost output by the end of this year. At least 100 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, and employment is unlikely to recover quickly. Even many with access to safety-net programs have struggled to pay rent and buy basic necessities. Young and lower-skilled workers have been hit particularly hard, and the fallout for marginalized communities reliant on employment…

8 min
the pandemic opportunity

AFTER ALL, IN THE PRE-PANDEMIC world, we were hurtling toward the very end of human existence on this planet, owing to climate change, the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and the development of artificial intelligence (AI) applications that will render more and more of the remaining hands redundant. Scientists have long been warning us that runaway global warming will sharply limit our time on this planet. The countdown has already begun. Humanity has made itself an endangered species. It would be suicidal to return to the pre-pandemic world. Why should we get back on a track that will lead us off a cliff? Now that so much of the economy has stopped, there is no better time to reorient it in a different direction. The pandemic has created an…

4 min
south korea’s health-centered development model

FOR STARTERS, policymakers in low-income economies should regard health as a fundamental human right that is critical for both personal development and a country’s sustainable economic growth. Healthier children are likely to perform better academically and become healthier, more productive adults. Likewise, establishing a robust and widely accessible health system is necessary to strengthen health security in the face of unpredictable shocks such as COVID-19. The third goal established by the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 3) commits all countries to work toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC), including access to quality essential health-care services and safe, effective, and affordable medicines and vaccines, by 2030. But the world is currently far from meeting these targets. More than half of the world’s people do not have full access to essential…

4 min
a health new deal

THESE EFFORTS ARE LAUDABLE, but inadequate. What the world really needs is an exponentially more ambitious “Health New Deal” to protect human health and achieve the World Health Organization’s Triple Billion targets of universal health coverage, protection from health emergencies, and better health and well-being. In conceptualizing a Health New Deal as a foundation for human and economic development in the coming decades, we can draw inspiration from the infrastructure that still endures from previous crises. For example, the British National Health Service, launched three years after the end of World War II, has become so embedded in the national psyche that it featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Similarly, the original New Deal left a lasting legacy, employing eight million Americans to pave 650,000 miles of road,…

5 min
the added value of vaccination

THE FACT THAT EVEN THOSE AT HIGH RISK from COVID-19 have yet to be fully protected demonstrates the complexity of the challenge of scaling up production and vaccinating billions of people. But the pandemic also highlights the perpetual, long-standing struggle with infectious disease facing hundreds of millions of people every day. There is usually only a thin line stopping pathogens from spilling over into human populations. When it is crossed, a small, localized disease outbreak can all too easily escalate into a global crisis at breakneck speed. Given that vaccination is often the only way to prevent this, we urgently need to revise how we view global immunization programs. Spreading Immunity Before COVID-19, policymakers regarded global vaccination drives through the long lens of international development and humanitarianism, and funded them accordingly. But as…

4 min
a hybrid strategy against pandemics

THE INITIAL LACK OF LEADERSHIP ON basic issues such as mask mandates and travel restrictions proved catastrophic, allowing both the virus and disinformation about it to spread widely. Equally disappointing, vaccine delivery has been piecemeal, with contradictory guidelines and tragic geographical disparities. Despite having a year to plan for the initial vaccine rollout, we are only now holding debates about vaccine passports, equity, and access. Weak global surveillance infrastructure and slow, uncoordinated decision-making have left the world in a state of deep vulnerability, desperate for new ideas and new leadership. Fortunately, human ingenuity can help to offset these failures, with the social, civil, and private sectors filling the vacuum created by government inaction. Many social entrepreneurs and non-profits are more agile and risk-tolerant than government agencies, and, using data science and…