Humanity will emerge from this pandemic. Previously, pandemics also occurred and humanity survived. It is true that in all of the above the world was less connected and that even poor mobility created physical barriers that delayed the spread of any contagion. Now that great mobility that we have all identified as one of the great strengths of the global economy, becomes a perfect ally of a virus that already has a high capacity for propagation. But human beings will succeed because throughout their short life on this Earth they have learned to adapt.
It is true that this way out and the reduction of the damage of their ability to behave collectively, will have a lot to do with the seriousness with which each citizen of this world takes this situation, the respect and consideration that we all have towards our fellow citizens, with collective discipline but also with individual discipline and that each one exercises the duty to respect and the right to be respected. Nothing can be demanded of others if we are not able to demand it of ourselves.
We’ll survive, but surviving is not enough. Experience should lead us to be better human beings, because this experience will bring out all the best we have and all the worst we still have as a species.
And so it will be for governments, for those who took this situation with tremendous irresponsibility and for those others who have acted and act with great sanity and have been consistent in order to protect the citizens of their countries, which has also meant protecting citizens of all countries.
The world is no longer the same. Large supply chains have been broken, supply has fallen short in the face of an exponential increase in demand in a short period of time, need outstrips demand, and effective demand is significantly reduced. The “needy” will outweigh the “consumers,” repeating on a larger scale this old dilemma that governments will have to face.
Investments will not react aggressively because the uncertainty is overwhelming and neither the injection of liquidity nor the drastic reduction in interest rates will make investors react in the short term, always worried about the return of the invested capital.
Rebuilding the world economy will take time, the most precious of all human resources and the scarcest of all, and it will require responsible and intelligent attitudes from States and their governments, and that they focus more on the common good than on individual benefit.
Without a doubt, the “day after” COVID-19 will be very hard and for a long time we will remember this first pandemic of the 21st century. And it is likely that over the years we will talk about the “coronavirus generation” or the pre and post coronavirus world.
For our nation, that of all Cubans, this is perhaps the hardest situation of all those they have had to face since the last century. If, until very recently, when you wanted to remember a very difficult situation, the obligatory reference was the Special Period, it is already very clear that the situation that everyone will have to face and overcome exceeds in all aspects that other one lived at the beginning of the 1990s. There is no parallel.
The pandemic finds us after years of facing a profound deterioration of our economy, with very harsh external restrictions, without having been able to overcome the accumulated technological deterioration, with a production system that, with honorable exceptions, exhibits low labor productivity, which among other reasons generates a high propensity to import, from which our main exports of goods are not exempt.
It finds us in the midst of amending problems, building productive chains, trying to transform practices that gave little result, and eradicating others that led to greater evils. After three years of tenacious fighting with the most aggressive of all the U.S. administrations that Cuba has had to face after 1962, which has implemented almost 300 new measures to make our situation more difficult, in a display of unique innovative ideas. By the way, each one of those measures has come to confirm the defeat of the previous one.
It will also be an opportunity to learn, because all our strengths will come out, just as all our shortcomings will become more evident and some others that until now did not seem so clear, both material, organizational and behavioral. We should not miss the opportunity to learn, because it will also be the possibility to be better the day after.
This will be a tough year, 2020 will be very tough. Our already diminished export earnings (2,372,779 dollars in 2018) may decrease even more; the slowdown in the world economy will impact nickel prices and may reduce its income (775,869,000 dollars in 2018), probably also in the case of sugar (196,849,000 dollars in 2018), both responsible for 41% of export earnings of goods in that year. How much? It is difficult to estimate, but the reduction is certain. And any reduction in export earnings is very sensitive for the country.
Nor can we compensate for the possible fall in prices with more exports due to insufficient external demand and insufficient domestic production.
The recovery of the Chinese economy will be decisive and will largely depend on the recovery of demand in the main world economic centers.
The income from the export of beverages and tobacco (396.916 billion), responsible for 16% of total income from exports of goods, is more difficult to predict given the characteristics of these goods. But it must be taken into account that the main markets of both are in European countries, today one of the most hit by COVID-19.
The same won’t happen with medical and pharmaceutical products, (385,348,000 dollars in 2018) responsible for 16% of total revenues and that are likely to increase their contribution to the external balance.
In the case of income from the export of services (11,289,821.100 dollars in 2018), around 82% of total exports, it is very likely that the main items will be affected. Accommodation and food and beverage supply services contributed more than 970 million that year, with a direct impact on the reduction of aggregate demand, while communication services contributed more than 772 million dollars, both will be affected, in the first of the cases due to the drastic reduction of tourism and also of remittances, in the second, mainly due to the reduction of remittances from the United States, which will be affected to the same extent that the economic crisis deepens in that country. Medical services, with 6,398,538,800 export earnings in 2018 (56% of total service exports) could partially offset this situation.
So when the opportunities in the external market become more difficult, without a doubt an alternative will be our domestic market, apparently small but enormous if we consider how difficult it is for national production to meet that demand. There are new opportunities here, we must take advantage of them.
Today it becomes more evident to everyone how much the weakness of our agribusiness sector exposes us; how necessary it is to rethink the allocation of investment resources among the different sectors of our economy, how much more we must hurry to achieve greater diversification of our energy mix; how necessary it is to dedicate more investment resources to our industrial system; how sensitive is such a strategic sector as tourism, how important is our domestic market thought globally and not just limited to consumer goods.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also put on the table the enormous importance of science, of having a long sight and always keeping an eye on world trends in scientific development, as if we didn’t have the much-sought interferon?
We’ll get ahead and we’ll be better and we’ll do better.
From Noreña in Asturias, a small and beautiful town, my sister-in-law sent me this poem which is a song to hope
And the people stayed home
And they read books and listened,
and rested, and exercised,
and made art, and played games,
and learned new ways of being,
and were still.
And they listened more deeply.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living
in ignorant, dangerous,
mindless, and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed,
and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses,
and made new choices,
and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live,
and they healed the earth fully,
as they had been healed.
(Poem about the 1800 plague epidemic. Kitty O’Meara. 1839-1888)
True, this will be a very tough year, but we’ll do more than survive.