Countries around the world stand together in one of the toughest times where a global pandemic has impacted the health and economic conditions of countries. The manner in which a country deals with the present crisis will determine its place in the future world order. India has been globalising especially in terms of creating its impact in maintaining a stronghold among the diaspora. Indians have grown up to 17.5 million people abroad- the largest populations of migrants in the world. If Indian passport holders are to be counted, the number adds up to 31 million civilians. The countries have been forged into an ultimate run for securing its own population living abroad as well in the home country. As immigrants return to their home countries, there is a serious cut in remittances along with other impacts in the climbing economies around the world where these citizens found shelter in.
As economies have prioritised survival of businesses over growth, the leadership has failed to prioritize the immediate requirements and the long term plans of countries to follow the same. The COVID-19 pandemic has sprouted new questions of whether- should the western countries hold the emblem of the free and developed world order? United Kingdom is likely to be among the European countries worst affected by coronavirus with even Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the virus. Similarly in Spain, the problem was the late implementation of the nationwide lockdown which came into force by mid-March. The warm weather and the lifestyle of the country engaged people in spending evenings- eating, drinking and hugging, which created a higher probability of the virus to spread. The conditions in the United States have also worsened as the graph climbs to around 2 million cases, where 1 out of every 100 people in the US have been infected by the virus.
As the virus spreads to all directions of the globe, the coronavirus map has made it clear that western countries have suffered more from the virus. The crisis has brought to limelight that they are struggling and are over dependent on the healthcare supplies of the Eastern countries like India and China. While a South Asian nation like India has been working intensively on safeguarding its own population, the Western countries of the United States have set an example by obstructing such procedures and igniting unnecessary concerns of international friction. By rejecting H-1B visas and Green card holders of an Indian origin to travel, they have malevolently pricked in the swift procedures of rendering help to families who would like to travel back to their homeland to stay amongst their loved ones. There are Indian citizens who have lost their H-1B jobs and are by law stipulated 60 days to return back to India, but with the present scenario, even that option has been hindered. It is not to be forgotten that the United States is one of the only countries to tax its citizens based on citizenship and not residency, this creates a notion of abandonment and lack of consideration for these populations which have started surging especially amid this unprecedented pandemic. American families around the world have indicated that no American citizen should be abandoned overseas as they confront this pandemic simply because of a failure of the government to provide them with the support they need.
Can India make its way up to the top?
India is a major supplier of ‘generic drugs’ to the world and 40% of the generic formulations in America flood in from the South Asian country. As India abides by its policy of providing assistance to countries that require it, China has raised fear of dependence in the health care sector of these western countries that rely on cheaper land, electricity, and higher volumes of production for these pharmaceutical industries to thrive. Thus in such appalling times, it is very important to understand the supply chain of these pharma companies. Multi-National Companies (MNCs) like Pfizer (US), Roche, Novartis (both Swiss), Merck (US), and GlaxoSmithKline (UK) are industries as a whole but depend on the supply of ingredients and finished drugs from India and China. This supply chain involves the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) which has a 40% bulk coming in from China. India and China together export 75% to 80% of the APIs to the United States. After certain narratives of increased control of China over the World Health Organization (WHO), and increased border tensions with India, the world looks up to the South Asian country for a vaccine in these tough times.
India has been persistent in producing vaccines of various diseases in the past, like polio, meningitis, pneumonia, BCG, rotavirus, and the world does not make a mistake in reaching out for its help again. The Serum Institute of India, the world`s largest vaccine makers by the number of doses produced and sold globally. Other companies like Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila have also started independent efforts in developing vaccines and are at their utmost capacities in higher production rates. Indian pharma companies have been known for predicting, working, and filing a patent on Zika Vaccine before the US and WHO. These industries not only have a head start in the vaccine production process, but their capabilities of selling them at lower costs and higher numbers are well eyed by countries around the world.
India might be one of the foremost countries to look up to in these desperate times, but financial conditions of the markets are at their utmost vulnerability. Although in these straining times, India has worked in tandem with its previous policies of securing its diaspora in countries around the world. In the month of May, the Government of India (GOI) revealed its plan called the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ of evacuating around 14,800 civilians from the Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, USA, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Along with 64 flights, 3 navy warships have also sailed to bring back stranded people from Maldives. By mid-May, the GOI expressed their interests of expanding their reach to countries like Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands, Ukraine, Russia, and Thailand, as a response to 67, 833 requests for repatriation which include students, migrant workers, short term visa holders, medical emergencies, tourists, pregnant women and senior citizens.
The Economic Downfall
The decline in economic activity post lockdown measures in different countries has impacted the real or productive sectors of the economy. Tourism, entertainment, stock markets have been under distress because of lockdown measures around the world. This Global event is being called an economic infection and is being compared to the 2008 economic slowdown, 9/11 terror attacks, and 1970-80s oil crisis. Though these economic crises had been triggered through political action and extremist violence, the present scenario invites a new set of challenges as experts are terming this as a dual shock. International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other Wall Street Journals like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have pointed out that ‘a global recession is imminent’ either equally or much worse than the global financial crisis of 2008. Economists Hugo Erken, Raphie Hayat, and Kan ji are viewing the COVID-19 shock as a black swan event-where the occurrence of the event might be unlikely, but its impact is big.
The conditions for the markets deteriorate dad by day, but MNCs can still survive this impact and maintain the customer-employee relation. Besides, the focus of the government should be over Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) as they face serious repercussions not just in their customer-employee relation but also employee-employee relations as such companies undergo a major cut in their profit margins. Their dropping profit margins are the initiators of spiking unemployment rates in different countries. The US unemployment rate has hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression. In the five weeks covered by the US jobs reports for April, 26.5 million people applied for unemployment benefits. Though some European countries like France and Germany have started providing portions of paid leave to the private sector workforce, such an approach might not be feasible and productive in the South Asian domestic policy where population levels top the charts with bare minimum security provided by companies.
In a broader view to summarize measures resorted by the so-called – Powerful West, their outcomes have just not been satisfactory to stand as an inspiration to economically weak countries and its own population as well. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among those countries that look up to the United States and other aid providing countries for support but sit empty-handed during these times. The small island economies are likely to experience a severe recession in 2020, pummelled by falling tourism revenue, remittances and capital flows, and pressure of high and growing debt servicing costs. The GDP as well is expected to shrink by 4.7% this year with countries like Bahamas, Maldives, Seychelles, and Palau to shrink by 8%, compared to the global contraction of 3%.
Where countries like India have assured their commitment to assist the SIDS, the WHO has marred the expectations of its member states by failing in its main agenda of warning countries of a suspected pandemic in the initial months. WHO
s approach of ignoring Chinas actions in different regions and taking Chinese statements at face value have brought them to the withdrawal of US contributions at such peak hours. The truth is that China had an opportunity to warn governments where their citizens travel and forestall the spread of the virus, but it chose to protect its reputation- with a shameful assist from Mr. Tedos (Director General, World Health Organisation).
India`s approach is something that is highly appreciated by countries, but it will take time for recoveries to be made. India has stimulated partnerships with the SIDS in terms of capacity building and announced a $26 million grant to CARICOM nations and Pacific Small Island Developing States for high impact developmental projects in the areas of their choice. India may stand out as a regional ‘trustworthy’ leader, where businesses and manufacturing hubs can be set up finding cheap labour and electricity as the best resources for a preferred path towards growth.
Shrrijiet Roychowdhary is a Research Assistant at the Centre for New Economics Studies and a student at the Jindal School of International Affairs (O.P. Jindal University).