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A Noisy Return to a Post-Pandemic Normal

Introduction

As COVID-19 infections throughout the world rise, especially with the Delta variant — a mutated version of the virus — it brings into question, when will we get back to a new ‘normal’. While parts of the world are already returning to a pre-pandemic norm, countries in Africa still lag behind in securing vaccines for their healthcare workers. Until the world can ensure a safe and equitable distribution of vaccines, there will be no normal — for a while. 

The United Kingdom

Dubbed “Freedom Day,” the United Kingdom is returning to pre-pandemic normalcy. All restrictions have been lifted, and with 68.8% of the population having received a 2nd dose, all is going well, until you start to take into account the steady rise in infections — especially with the transmissible Delta variant, which killed thousands in India a few months ago. Like Shakespeare’s play on words, this is another gamble with the economy. For the past few months, the British economy has been stagnating, recent consumer trends show that household expenditures decreased by 11% when compared to Q3 2020-2021, and a loss in consumer spending hurts aggregate demand in the UK. This has a negative effect on the GDP and led to a loss in income, rise in unemployment, and consistent failures to meet monetary policies set forth by the Bank of England. 

Downing Street is now trying to get people back out: partying, eating, drinking, and working; and throughout the western world, governments have taken similar approaches. Across the pond, the United States is, for the most part, open, while Canada is coming out of lockdown. Lockdowns have hurt local business, people are frustrated and government debts and deficits have taken a toll on the state. However, in most of the Western world, we see that vaccines are readily available, but most countries still do not have enough vaccines to return to a ‘new’ normal. 

Georgia

Countries such as Georgia, Ukraine, or Belarus for example are not relatively poor states — in comparison to the rest of the world — but lag behind in vaccination rates. Vaccine hesitancy is rampant among the public and even with government encouragement, few people volunteer to take it, and in order to save their economies, prematurely opened up. This leaves them vulnerable to COVID-19, which delays the world’s return to normal, and raises a philosophical question: do the ends justify the means for some countries that are opening up prematurely due to vaccine shortages? For example, the IMF predicts Georgia will grow at 7.7% this year due to opening up prematurely, but amid rising delta infections, hospital beds filling up, and exhausted medical and financial resources, it is very possible many will die in the next wave. 

However, Georgia isn’t alone. There are a hundred other countries facing the same question. Do the ends justify the means? What to prioritize? Nonetheless, getting the jab is important — no matter where you live — as it means you are one less person to vaccinate and more vials can be donated to other, lesser developed countries. The faster vaccines can be secured for poorer, lesser developed nations, the faster we will return to a ‘new’ normal because a dozen nations don’t represent the world. The longer it takes to vaccinate any human, the longer this pandemic drags on, and the longer you’ll wear a mask. So, if you have the opportunity to do so, take your dose as it’ll help strengthen the world from a virus which churned the world to a halt.

Sources

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Analysis

The Georgian Miracle (Opinion)

After the collapse of the USSR, Georgia experienced an economic crisis. In the USSR, it was known as one of the most beautiful republics of the Soviet Union. The cobblestone-lined streets of Tbilisi and the scenic mountain views of Kazbegi, attracted millions. However, after the downfall, there were no tourists. This was just a piece of what Georgia lost, of course it lost Abkhazia and South Ossetia too. The country slipped into civil war, millions lost their jobs, factories closed, and inflation rose exponentially. 

GDP Deflator, Inflation, World Bank, CC BY-4.0

GDP Per Capita [PPP], current US$, World Bank, CC BY-4.0

This led to most of the economy shutting down, and millions going hungry. After 1993, Georgia went through en masse political unrest, and there were some reforms, but it was after the Rose Revolution that the economy witnessed severe changes. During Saakashvili’s reign, he made sure he grew the economy and this is seen by GDP per Capita rising. It was then that investment into Georgia rose, tourist arrivals, and the lost industry developed. Shown by the graphs below.

International Tourist Arrivals, Data from World Bank, CC BY-4.0

FDI Inflows into Georgia [in % of GDP], World Bank, CC BY-4.0

Saakashvili promised economic reforms and delivered, however, he did turn into a totalitarian, Draconian dictator. In 2008, Georgia fought over its territory. Nonetheless, one of his most important legacies were reducing corruption, increased trade, development — e.g., making it easy to do business — and cooperation with the west. Then came another party, which continued his legacy, and continued to develop Georgia with the same tactics he had used — for example the IT sector, and exports. [Happened because of the country’s low crime rate increasing investor psyche, therefore giving them the thumbs up to invest].

Georgia’s trade rating 2005-2013, [1 = low, 6 = high], World Bank, CC BY-4.0

Georgia’s Exports in Billions [current US$], World Bank, CC BY-4.0

Two years ago, Georgia crossed into the very high HDI category. This marks a new era as the country prepares to potentially enter the European Union in the future, and enhances its relations with Brussels. But it stands testament to the Georgian miracle. By far, Georgia is not like the Korean, Singaporean or Japanese miracles, but its fast rise from a war-torn nation in the 1990s to a modern, prosperous, free republic in the Caucasus is miraculous albeit a small victory, but compared to other former-soviet states, and one with no resources, Georgia is a celebratory success story.