A virus has put on the table the management and response capacity of all the countries of the world, but especially those of the great powers. For the writer and analyst Moises Naím, the verdict of the COVID-19 pandemic is that “power is ephemeral.” This, in addition to being the main thesis of one of his acclaimed books The end of power (Debate, 2019), is the great geopolitical question facing the world today. “In these times, power has become easier to obtain, more difficult to use and easier to lose,” explains Naím from New York during his speech at the event. Retina Reset, promoted by Santander and Telefónica, and sponsored by Accenture, Novartis, Philip Morris, Renfe, Unir and Red Eléctrica de España.
Along with the end of power, Naím points to populism and polarization as the two global problems that the pandemic has brought to light. “Populism will not disappear. And although it is too early to reach conclusions, it is likely that it has even been strengthened in certain places as a result of the pandemic ”, suggests the writer and cites the case of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has held power since 2014 and is defined as a protopopulist, and the case of Tanzania and President John Magufuli, re-elected in October on accusations of electoral fraud. Regarding polarization, Naím suggests that the only way to combat it is to “fight against the charlatans present in politics, business and religion” and also “against their followers who, confused by post-truth and fake news, they no longer know what or in whom to believe and end up opting for the most charismatic leaders. ” Thus, the pandemic has not necessarily clarified ideas or made people “repudiate liars” who rule from small countries to great powers.
According to the analyst, COVID-19 has been neither the Chernobyl of a power like China nor the beginning of the end for the leadership of the United States. “Nobody knows exactly what the world environment will be for the next decade, I only know that this is the beginning of the great transformations.” Naím believes that the United States will continue to be “the great nuclear, academic and technological power” and that China will continue to grow without restraint on issues such as “science, technology and finance.” But the analyst also warns about the loss of “civil liberties and rights” by the powers due to covid-19. “About 2,600 million people around the world have been affected by decisions that governments have implemented with the excuse of the pandemic to limit the checks and balances of democracies from the Executive Branch and inhibit the conduct of organizations and institutions that can do so. to warn, as parliaments or the media, “suggests the analyst and to avoid this he proposes that values such as democracy, fraternity and respect are also” on the geopolitical table “and hand in hand with Europe. “Europeans must be enthusiastic again about that great European project of union and integration that, beyond bureaucratic practices in Brussels, consists of enthusing citizens in the values of the old continent. Democracies, more than reset they have to get stronger ”, Naím concludes.
The economy, between the abyss and opportunity
The economy is also going through a very delicate moment. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has fallen like never before in history and its consequences reach an almost unprecedented depth. As Alejandra Kindelán, head of Banco Santander’s studies, public policy and institutional relations service, explains, the recovery will never be solid until the health issue is resolved. “Investing now in improving this issue means minimizing the economic impact it will have in the future. This is the basis of recovery ”, he maintains.
The European Union represents an indispensable piece on this path towards stabilization. The coordination and ambition exhibited with the approval of never-before-seen aid or the centralization in the vaccine purchase process are unequivocal symptoms that we will only get out of the coronavirus crisis through the community. “Now we have the opportunity to emphasize the importance of Europe. We must continue to push towards a series of reforms, such as fiscal and digital, which will make the continent sustainable in the future, ”Kindelán says.
Despite the coup dealt by the covid, different companies, especially SMEs – which represent 60% of Spanish economic activity and account for 70% of employment – have managed to improve their business thanks to the innovation undertaken during the pandemic. This is the case of leading sectors in Spain such as fertilizers and biological fertilizers and robots in charge of logistics. “We have some business subsegments that are growing rapidly. We have to help them to grow faster and create new jobs. We need to develop a support plan for these types of companies ”, argues Kindelán.
Broken social contract
Although with the pandemic the attention is focused mainly on the economy and health, the deterioration of human rights and the increase in inequality are direct consequences that should be addressed. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, understands that politics must listen more to citizens and reverse course. “The coronavirus is a great opportunity. The normal has proven bad. We have to walk towards something better. We have to change and transform the current models ”.
Bachelet is blunt in the face of the reality surfaced and exacerbated by covid-19. It speaks of a broken social contract, of extreme poverty that will grow by 100 million people, rising unemployment and even more impoverished lower social classes. Its solution, which is the same as that of the United Nations, leads to a global agreement, where all sectors are included and that offers universal systems of social protection of access to housing, health and education. “Too many measures are taken in the short term, just to stop the direct impact of the pandemic. Let’s look at the bottom of the causes. This agreement requires inclusive and participatory processes. If we don’t do it now, the opportunity will go away. “
And inequality, like so many other times, affects women more. The impact of the crisis has shaken sectors where they play a leading role, such as healthcare and the informal economy. Bachelet assures that the gender perspective is totally necessary to emerge stronger from the pandemic. Use a sports simile to understand it: without half the team it is impossible to win a game. “Gender equality is not an option, but an obligation. We can invest in gender-sensitive social and universal protection, as well as in education without stereotypes, as happens in technical and scientific careers, and in protecting labor rights in precarious jobs, where 62% are women ”, he concludes.