Boardroom briefing: economies vs. COVID-19, best countries for quality of life and the end of the COVID pandemic


Looking at the trade-off between saving lives and saving money, female leaders offer citizens the best quality of life, and when will COVID stop? Readings from around the world on business, leadership and management.

The health vs. economy trade-off for COVID-19

Confidence in business survival after the corona pandemic in PNG. Credit: PTI

This balancing act is vexing government’s all around the world: what is the trade-off between a healthy population and a healthy economy? In the current pandemic, harsh lockdowns are being blamed for economic ruin, or praised for saving lives. But new figures shine a light on what is really going on, and – spoiler alert – there are no easy answers.

Our World in Data seeks to find out if countries with lower death rates seen larger downturns? Well, yes and no. Countries that have been hit the hardest economically like Spain (-22.1 per cent) and the United Kingdom (-21.7 per cent) have also seen very high rates of infection and death. Conversely, the best-performing country economically was Taiwan (with just a 0.6 per cent contraction of its economy), which has also been praised for keeping the virus under control.

The United States – which has experienced one of the worst COVID rides of any nation, with nearly 200,000 dead – sits somewhere in the middle at -9.5 per cent. And Sweden, watched worldwide for its lack of a lockdown, has still gone backwards at -8.3 per cent. (By comparison, PNG’s -3 percent, as outlined in the recently-released MYEFO, doesn’t look too bad.)

So, while the stats do not take into account the make up of the various economies and their domestic-versus-international trade numbers, it seems that you cannot simply say that one strategy is correct economically. As for the other financial, emotional and psychological impacts, only time will tell.

When women do well, so does everyone

Prime Minister James Marape and his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, at Government House. Credit: PNG Office of the Prime Minister

How about the best place to be if you want to have a good quality of life? Well, it appears that if you are in a country run by a woman that is a good place to start.

A Forbes spotlight on wellbeing has shown that the four top-ranked countries in the world on 50 dimensions of wellbeing – in the just-published 2020 Social Progress Index – are all run by women.

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The top spots are held by Norway, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, with the US taking a tumble from 19th to 28th spot.

‘Women are like the canary in the coal mine,’ the report says. ‘Societies rise and fall in history. But the quickest measure of where they are on that trajectory? How they treat women.

‘I’m not suggesting it is female leadership that has put Norway, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand at the top of the list. No doubt they were high on the list even before women took the helm. Nor that women are better leaders than men. But countries that educate, empower and elect women offer all their citizens the highest levels of wellbeing. When women do well, so does everyone.’

Stop the pandemic, I want to get off

When will the COVID-19 pandemic end? It’s the question on the lips of the world and a new report by McKinsey & Company seeks to come up with the answer.

It suggests there are two possible ends to the current pandemic, one where we all get herd immunity – either through a vaccine or naturally – the other where there is a return to normal life without the pandemic being over.

These two scenarios are related, but not on the same timeline. A country that has managed to control the virus can get back to some kind of normal before herd immunity is achieved; countries where the virus rages out of control cannot.

The think-piece takes a detailed look at the ways herd immunity may be reached but for ‘most other developed economies, the epidemiological end point is most likely to be achieved in the third or fourth quarter of 2021’.

The report doesn’t hazard a guess for less developed economies like PNG, so it looks like a question of masking up and hanging in there for now.

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