The current economic crisis started before Covid 19. What the pandemic did was escalate it abruptly and add unexpected biases. Once the health issue is under control, we will still have to deal with the economic crisis and its social consequences exacerbated by the situation.
One of the traits of this pandemic is the brutally disproportionate character of the phenomenon; while thousands of new businesses go bankrupt and jobs disappear on a mass scale, top businesses such as banks, pharmaceutical companies, and telecommunications and telecommerce consortia gain huge profits.
We are facing an intense and restrictive concentration of capital: mass bankruptcy and unemployment together with a small minority quickly acquiring huge amounts of wealth, which results in heightened inequality and social security.
This has provoked popular protests against Covid 19, even in developed countries. The “yellow vests” in France, Black Lives Matter in the US, or national demonstrations in Catalonia. In Latin America, large-scale demonstrations took place in Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, as well as Puerto Rico, Honduras, and Guatemala. The lockdowns enforced because of the pandemic help to curb the protests, but this will only last so long.
With small and medium-sized enterprises decimated, a segment of the middle class breaks away, adding disparate companions (unemployed, self-employed, people migrating from the countryside to the urban suburbs, and the usual working class) to join a heterogeneous socio-political cauldron.
It’s easy to predict that when the healthcare crisis subsides at the end of 2021 or the start of next year, popular discontent will return to the streets as people find themselves facing an intolerable socioeconomic situation.
And they will do so for bigger reasons.
The twilight of the pandemic will see a new wave of political tensions over the course of a controversial process of socioeconomic, institutional and labour reconstruction in our countries.
This is the “new normal” that awaits us. Who will determine the terms of this reconstruction, and how?
There are several different dimensions to the problem. Aside from peoples’ core right to demand better living conditions, the restructuring of the economy must tackle another problem that, in many cases, the general framework of current institutions, laws and customs dates back to the second industrial revolution, with eventual concessions to the third, and seldom reflects the demand and opportunities offered by the fourth scientific and technological revolution.
The time for denouncing neoliberalism has almost come to an end. Now it’s time to search for an alternative to replace this scourge.
It’s not just popular needs and complaints or social development that demand this change of framework. There are also demands from the more technologically advanced capitalism that call on such reform in view of its own interests
Even in developing countries, capital, whether local or foreign, requires new forms of production and services, investment in technology and international cooperation that no longer fall within the preestablished norms.
The worn-out international framework, one that is oligarchical or representative or a more primitive capitalism, no longer facilitates but rather obstructs the development of competitiveness.
Without the digitalisation and automatisation that was already underway, the remote work and rationalisation that became enshrined during the pandemic will be left behind. This implies sifting through and rationalising the hired labour force once more, to the detriment of a large mass of unskilled workers, or those whose qualifications are no longer useful.
It’s not just about being prepared for the current scientific and technological revolution, as development policy might demand. It is not enough to merely denounce the evils of an economic model that is exhausted and corrupt, but rather envisage a new strategy for investment and productive work that is more suited to our realities, needs and expectations. This includes forms of economy and work that will need to devise their respective institutional, cultural and legal frameworks and own methods of organisation.
The world, its population and its demographics have changed, along with social complexity and the conditions for work and creation.
There is no past to go back to. It’s imperative to develop other forms of organisation, communications and exchange of ideas, which requires the formation of new socioeconomic propositions that are both feasible and sustainable. Beyond airing out our grievances, it’s also critical to discuss and conceive of a more inclusive plan for the changes that the country needs in order to secure a different future.
The time for denouncing neoliberalism has almost reached its conclusion.
It’s no secret that its falsehoods and cynicism have been a disaster, both socially and economically. Today it’s time to seek an alternative to replace this plague. It’s not enough just to denounce the effects of the crisis aggravated by the pandemic; those who have felt them already know too well. The challenge now is to work out how to deal with them and take action, not only in order to overcome new challenges, but also to acquire the necessary knowledge and social consensus to reconstruct the country in a just and effective way in order to progress beyond the current temporary framework. (PL)