A SovereignPH.com EXCLUSIVE
A survey of Covid-19 implications from an international perspective
by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan
Liberal vs people’s democracy
Once a card-bearing communist, former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, ended up incarcerated in various military camps from March 1973 to December 1974 after President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.
In his eulogy for his comrade Rene S. Velasco, who was like him communist cadre in their college days, he explained why they took a detour: “When we realized (Jose Maria) Sison and his gang were as power hungry as reactionary politicians, when we realized that the party could be as ruthless as having undertaken the 1971 bombing of the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda just to create a “revolutionary flow,” when comrades with the slightest suspicion of being military agents were killed posthaste, and even tortured, we drifted away from the Party, and the movement.”
Bobi, as he is called in our circle of friends, connects his communist beginnings with Covid-19: “If there’s anything the pandemic incontrovertibly demonstrated, it is that at the end of the day, people and even our entire human species have to rely on strong — yes, even authoritarian states — for their survival.
He illustrates his point further: “It is nations with strong, authoritarian states — mainly the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation — that have beaten back this pandemic, which some religious fanatics even see as ushering the biblical end of days. Nearly overwhelmed in February with 77,016 cases, China now has just 3,947. Russia has only 626 cases.”
A matter of choice or compulsion?
Asian nations that have had a long history of authoritarianism — Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and, yes, even Japan, appear to have the pandemic under control within their territories, with cases only by the hundreds, he said.
Tiglao makes an accounting – “In contrast to these authoritarian states, several nations espousing liberal democracy that have been steeped in the notion of individual choice as the highest human value show these statistics as of March 26.”
The US now has 66,995 cases from just 35 cases 30 days ago; Italy, 57,521 from 79; Spain, 28,570 from two; France, 20,002 from 12; and the United Kingdom, 8,929 from just nine.
(An updated data states that the United States now has 1,378,548 infections of COVID-19 while Spain has 228,030; United Kingdom, with 223,060 and Italy with 219,814. France has 139,519).
World Health Organization experts who studied how China beat back Covid-19 had emphasized one particular lesson: the government should act fast and decisively.
But how can liberal democracies really do that, burdened with due processes and even parliamentary protocol?
Anti-China liberals expressed horror as they posted video clips of Wuhan scenes such as the one showing the gates to a residence with uncooperative virus-infected people being welded shut and of another a family, which we presume were sick with Covid-19, being dragged out of their apartments.
Focused social distancing?
His peer at the Manila Times, however, does not share the ambassador’s view.
Yen Makabenta, reprints a paper in the National Review issue of April 6 by John Fund, columnist of the magazine, and Joel Hay, a professor of pharmaceutical economics and policy, entitled “Has Sweden found the right solution to the corona virus?”
Sweden has courageously decided not to endorse a harsh quarantine and, consequently, it hasn’t forced its residents into lockdown. “The strategy in Sweden is to focus on social distancing among the known risk groups, like the elderly,” Emma Frans, a doctor in epidemiology at Karolinska Institute of Sweden, told Euronews.
“The problem with lockdowns is that ‘you tire the system out,’ Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, told The Guardian.
“You can’t keep a lockdown going for months — it’s impossible.” He told Britain’s Daily Mail: “We can’t kill all our services. And unemployed people are a great threat to public health. It’s a factor you need to think about.”
What is Yen Makabenta smoking lately?
There were 401 reported Covid-19 deaths in Sweden, a Nordic country of 10.1 million people, on the date of that writing.
Four days after, that number of deaths almost doubled to 795, with confirmed cases escalating to 9,141 in a Nordic country of 10 million people.
Following the China model, the Philippines of 110 million people locked down on the second week of March, and by the same date, it posted only 221 deaths with 4,195 cases.
Science beats the virus
“Chinese collective philosopher-king’s mind is completely scientific, without the cobwebs of superstition, flaky notions of human rights, and untested theories. The Chinese communists have stepped away the mumbo-jumbo of Marxist dialectic materialism but retained its scientific bent,” says the former ambassador.
In comparison, Tiglao cites the United Kingdom, “which flirted with the unproven thesis of ‘herd immunity’ (a large group of people if exposed enough to a virus will soon develop immunity). From just 1,100 Covid cases in the middle of last month, the UK now has 52,300 (Updated: 223,060).
Its prime believer in ‘herd immunity,’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson, needed to fight for his life in an ICU.”
“Just look at the pathetic state of the US now, with President Trump grappling with the opposition-controlled House and the state governors, each a king into himself,” the former ambassador adds.
As of this writing 210 countries and territories around the world have reported a total of 1,687,857 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus a death toll of 102,198 deaths. (Updated data is available online)
The USA owns about 30% of those cases at 495,750, and 18% of those deaths at 18,430.Out of 50 states in the US, the state of New York owns 34% of cases at 170,512 and 43% of deaths at 7844 in-country.
One state accounting for 10% of the cases around the world!
China’s effectivity in handling the Wuhan crisis is making the United States look bad as it absorbs the brunt of the realities accompanying the pandemic. This did not just start with the corona virus, it has been festering the United States for some time.
The miniscule amount China budgets for its military, for instance allows it to allocate more for its economy and healthcare because of the enormity of its population. That should be self-explanatory to those who know that the constituency of the US (331 million) is only 23% of that of China (1.439 billion).
China’s impact on emerging markets
That China has become the second strongest economy in the world behind the US in record time, presents a more remarkable picture especially to the emerging markets, says Damisa Felicia Moyo, a pre-eminent thinker, who influences key decision-makers in strategic investment and public policy, macroeconomy and global affairs.
A famous economist and author who was born in Zambia, she is respected for her unique perspectives, her balance of contrarian thinking with measured judgment, and her ability to turn economic insight into investible ideas, precise why she serves on the boards of Barclays Bank, the financial services group, Seagate Technology, Chevron Corporation, the global miner Barrick Gold, and the 3M Company.
Moyo starts her analyses by surveying the strong points of the United States in the debate between so called “free” and controlled societies.
She writes in her book Edge of Chaos, that over the past hundred years, the combination of liberal democracy and private capitalism has helped to catapult the United States and Western countries to new levels of economic development.
In the United States over the past hundred years, she continues, American ingenuity and innovation has helped to spur industrialization and also helped in the creation and the building of things like household appliances such as refrigerators and televisions, motor vehicles and even the mobile phones in your pockets.
In a lecture before TED Talks, seven years ago where she asked, is China becoming the template for emerging economies, she pointed out that “there’s understandably a deep-seated presumption among Westerners that the whole world will decide to adopt private capitalism as the model of economic growth, liberal democracy, and will continue to prioritize political rights over economic rights.”
She even quoted President Obama rallying Americans amid a crisis facing private capitalism: “The question before us is not whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and to expand freedom is unmatched.”
For emerging economies, however, it looks like the hubris stopped there.
To be continued…
Ado Paglinawan is a daily commentator at Radyo Pilipinas1, and a regular columnist at the country’s newest daily news website SovereignPH.com and its partner magazine The Sovereign. He is a former Philippine diplomat, serving in the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York as press attaché, spokesman and special assistant to Ambassador Emmanuel N. Pelaez. He has served as a strategic consultant to Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo, Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon and Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo. He studied for 15 years at San Beda College from grade 1 to 4th year college majoring in English and Philosophy, minor in political science and history. He is a veteran of the First Quarter Storm, participating as president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Ado has taken continuing studies in world politics and diplomacy, international public relations, information technology and remote sensing, and Eastern Christianity and Islamic studies, from various universities in Washington DC.