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Call for a more caring state will not be cheap

Miodrag Soric / DW No Comments Share:
Combo photo shows medical worker Shi Hui (R) in Central Hospital of Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, March 6, 2020; and her husband Qin Jiwei and their daughter in Yinchuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, March 5, 2020 taken by Feng Kaihua. Shi Hui, a medical worker of General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University, volunteered to take part in a medical team to aid Hubei amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Her husband takes all the responsibilities to take care of their daughter. (Xinhua)

The Coronavirus crisis will have massive consequences, not only on the lives of many people and economies around the world.

As far-reaching, catastrophic and deadly as the consequences of the Coronavirus crisis are and will continue to be, at some point the outbreak will end. However, by then the world will have changed as today’s fears and suffering make a lasting impact. Many citizens in the wealthy West will call for a strong state that can provide better protection – and their calls will be louder than ever because only the state can fight pandemics.

This is bad news for companies. More state means higher taxes, more bureaucracy and regulation, slower decision-making and less money for consumers – and that will mean less economic growth. Still, most people in Germany and the European Union will welcome the move and see it as the price to pay to prevent a future health crisis of this magnitude.

Economically, the state has to resolve the current problems and save as many companies and jobs as possible. It will have to provide generous loans, provide tax breaks and support struggling companies. Many governments – in the EU, Britain, the US and Canada – have already introduced key measures. With each passing day of this crisis, trust in the markets decreases and their desire for a protective state increases.

There is another important lesson the state needs to learn when it comes to access to medication. In the future, governments will have to be stricter about where medicine is produced. Access to the cheapest products made in China or India, for instance, will not suffice. It will be important to produce enough medicine at home in case of such a crisis. That will push up the price of medicine, but people will have to accept this if they want more security.

And this applies to more than medicine. Other products and services essential for the functioning of a society and economy, assets that belong to the critical infrastructure need protection. For some time, Germany has been unclear about what these assets actually are. In the future, production may have to happen inside a country’s borders

However, an over-protective state can create problems of its own. One should not forget that this current Coronavirus pandemic emerged in a totalitarian state that tries to keep everything under its control; a state that says it wants to protect its citizens and is unable to do so; a state that has learned little from the epidemics of the past.

A larger, more involved state does not automatically create protection for its citizens. In a real democracy, responsible and informed citizens have to join forces with the state to fight crises such as this one. DW

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