Expect the best, prepare for the worst | The Jackal

14 Apr 2020

Expect the best, prepare for the worst

The Coronavirus pandemic, that has brought the world’s economy to its knees, will likely have lasting financial effects well beyond the current expectations of most Governments and business leaders. That’s because certain countries have utterly failed to recognise the seriousness of the situation and may never fully recover from what is becoming the worst pandemic in living memory.

Many nations were clearly unprepared and with supply lines being cut are in a serious predicament. Things like personal protective equipment and other essential items are in short supply globally, which has led to increased cases of COVID-19. This could mean a permanent closure of borders and even the breakdown of civilisation itself.

So what can we do to ensure humanity becomes more resilient in the future?

Today, Newsroom reported:


Vital supplies: produce locally and stock up

Once we are through this crisis and the Government has a chance to take stock, there are a few lessons I think they should keep in mind. First, there is the importance of reserves. New Zealand has a significant stock of pandemic medical supplies and while these were mostly designed around the flu, at least we have them. There have been stories in the past of hand wringing over large quantities of items expiring in reserve and needing to be discarded. But that should just be considered a cost of holding reserves.

The problem in New Zealand doesn’t seem to be with stock levels…rather it is the ability to distribute items quickly during an emergency. An action plan and centralised database of items would go a long way to resolving distribution issues as well as wastage from unused items.

Similarly, the Government should look at expanding our fuel reserves and other just-in-case items. Just having agreements with overseas suppliers to provide us with stock in a crisis is probably not safe enough.

Sure, we can try to kick start a recovery by borrowing and pumping more money into existing infrastructure, but a better way forward would be to think outside the square and revise the entire system.

For instance there is no current requirement to expand our fuel reserves when we’re using less petrol because of the lockdown. New Zealand already produces around half of the fuel we require when the economy is firing on all cylinders and even though there are still too many idiots driving cars on the roads, current production levels will be enough even if overseas supply entirely stops.

In fact the last thing we should do is build more tanks to store petroleum when our future security depends on the world transitioning away from polluting industries to cleaner sources of energy.

Obviously local production should mean increasing the ability of communities to generate their own power through solar arrays and wind turbines. Reducing our over-reliance on petroleum-based forms of transportation will also go a long way to creating resilience in the face of future disasters.

Second is the importance of local production. I was very relieved to see that New Zealand has a local mask manufacturer, and then there is Fisher and Paykel Healthcare which is one of the gems of our local manufacturing scene. We produce more than enough food for our population, but do we produce everything that is critical should our borders remain closed? I hope the Government will take this opportunity to do a serious stocktake and invest where it is needed.

I don’t mean to sound negative, but keeping it local only works when there are local businesses to support. Sure, New Zealand easily produces enough food for our own needs and manufactures our own face-masks and toilet paper, but is this the extent of our requirements going forward and are our current supply chains bombproof enough?

It’s also not just our own solutions during a worldwide pandemic that should be considered. Another major problem that greatly impacts on the ability of many nations to produce their own goods is the negative effects of globalisation. Presently the world’s economy is devised to make a small amount of people incredibly wealthy, while the large majority struggle to make ends meet. This lowers the resilience of our communities and ensures that when disaster strikes people are less prepared.

In order to prevent anarchy because of scarcity, populations need to be more invested in their local communities. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is through home ownership, which will also increase people’s ability to become self-reliant. Therefore at the top of the list should be a goal to redistribute wealth to those who most need it. Bold government’s can achieve this through legislation, in particular policy that ensures people can more easily attain housing security.

Clearly our economic recovery cannot be predicated on a dog-eat-dog capitalist system that has already failed.