Economists often use the term “ceteris paribus”, Latin for all other things held constant when positing their theories or making predictions based on their models. I am not an economist but as the CEO of a large NBFC, I take a keen interest in India’s economic performance, mainly to get a sense of where things are headed. After all, the wider performance of the economy has a crucial bearing on business performance. But these days, we are in the midst of an unprecedented situation where even near-term predictions are difficult to make because we have no clue about how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out.
When Unlock 1.0 began in May, we were hopeful of returning to normalcy within a couple of months. However, three months down the line, the situation continues to be dire as we head back to more of localised lockdowns and curfews. Most of our states are reporting an increasingly higher number of positive cases than before.
As we come to grips with the ground realities, the one good news is that India has ramped up its testing capacity and that nearly two crore people have been tested so far. In the meantime, work on developing a vaccine is going on at a frenetic pace. India is also in the race to develop a vaccine with trials of our Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, having started at 8 sites. Meanwhile, the medical profession is working tirelessly to develop a treatment protocol that would cure the disease and cut down on the fatality rates.
While we are grateful to our medical professionals, and even as we hope for the best, we must simultaneously work to get the economy back on track. Otherwise, we may fail ourselves by saving the lives of our citizens but destroying their livelihoods. It is increasingly clear that a lockdown is not a real solution as it only buys time at best. In that sense, it’s no better than kicking the can down the road. What’s more, it comes at a steep cost to the livelihoods of some of our poorest and most vulnerable sections.
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August - September 2020