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The Economist April 25, 2020

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United States
The Economist Newspaper Limited
51 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
coronavirus briefs

Officials in Wuhan, the Chinese city where covid-19 was first detected, raised the death toll there by 50%, to 3,869. The true extent of the outbreak in China remains unclear. Having thought it had contained the spread of the disease, Singapore reported a spike in infections, mostly among migrant workers. The port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s commercial hub, was overwhelmed with deaths from covid-19. Many corpses have been left in the streets. Chile said it would issue immunity cards to people who have recovered. Nearly 1,100 sailors aboard the Charles de Gaulle, a French aircraft-carrier, tested positive. The German state of Bavaria cancelled the Oktoberfest beer festival. The mayor of Munich supported the decision, but said it was still a bitter blow. For our latest coverage of the virus and its consequences please visit economist.com/ coronavirus…

7 min.
the world this week

Politics Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismissed covid-19 as “sniffles”, spoke outside the army’s headquarters at a rally against lock-downs. Some of the protesters called for a shutdown of Congress and the Supreme Court and urged the army to take control of the pandemic response. Mr Bolsonaro has said: “Really, I am the constitution.” He also sacked a health minister who supported lock-downs and replaced him with one who favours a return to business-as-usual “as quickly as possible”. Sporadic protests broke out in several American state capitals against lockdown measures. Some states took steps to reopen businesses. Georgia’s governor went as far as allowing cinemas and restaurants to resume service from April 27th, subject to social-distancing rules. President Donald Trump said he disagreed with this “totally egregious” decision. Spain followed France and…

5 min.
after the disease, the debt

NATIONAL LEADERS like to talk about the struggle against covid-19 as a war. Mostly this is a figure of speech, but in one respect they are right. Public borrowing in the rich world is set to soar to levels last seen amid the rubble and smoke of 1945. As the economy falls into ruins, governments are writing millions of cheques to households and firms in order to help them survive lockdowns. At the same time, with factories, shops and offices shut, tax revenues are collapsing. Long after the covid-19 wards have emptied, countries will be living with the consequences. An astonishing deterioration in the public finances is unfolding (see Briefing). America’s government is set to run a deficit of 15% of GDP this year—a figure that will go up if more…

5 min.
a pandemic of power grabs

ALL THE world’s attention is on covid-19. Perhaps it was a coincidence that China chose this moment to tighten its control around disputed reefs in the South China Sea, arrest the most prominent democrats in Hong Kong and tear a hole in Hong Kong’s Basic Law (see China section). But perhaps not. Rulers everywhere have realised that now is the perfect time to do outrageous things, safe in the knowledge that the rest of the world will barely notice. Many are taking advantage of the pandemic to grab more power for themselves (see International section). China’s actions in Hong Kong are especially troubling. Since Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed under the formula of “one country, two systems”. By and large, its people…

3 min.
pimp the ride

EVEN BEFORE the recession, investors were deeply pessimistic about the car industry. Sitting on $1.3trn-worth of legacy investments in factories that rely on a technology that ought to become obsolete—the internal-combustion engine—the likes of Ford, Renault and Volkswagen don’t exactly look well positioned for the 21st century. Now, with car sales collapsing, a dinosaur business that employs 10m people directly faces a moment of truth (see Briefing). Long synonymous with hubris and the inept allocation of capital, it needs to look to the future. Executives say they are better placed today than in 2008-09, when General Motors and others received bail-outs. Most firms have more cash and bigger margins. But this logic gets them only so far. Production in Europe and North America is now 50-70% lower than a year ago.…

3 min.
essential workers

LIFE HAS never been easy for the Gulf’s migrant workers. Though they are around half of the region’s population and are essential to its economy, the locals give them little respect. Coming from poorer countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal, most work long hours for wages that are high compared with salaries back home but low by any other standard. They care for Kuwaiti children, nurse sick Saudis and build Dubai’s skyscrapers. When their workday is done, many are crammed into spartan dormitories by their employers. Whether visiting workers have lived in the Gulf for two months or two decades, they are deemed to be “temporary” and are left out of the social contract. Most citizens treat them as a subservient underclass. The outbreak of covid-19 has made life even…