Musicians of the Titanic…

“The species that survive are not the strongest or the smartest, but those that adapt better to change”. Charles Darwin, 1859”

The prevailing social order has demonstrated its inability to control the adverse circumstances that nature and human behavior cause in the coexistence, and the effects of the Covid – 19 pandemics have incorporated into society the unknown of its future.

The lack of solidarity of society, the inequitable distribution of resources, the lack of planning, corruption, the isolation of institutions, authoritarianism and especially inequality in income, have been the support of the organization and the prevailing order.

How will the tax collection institutions feed the weakened Treasury in the adverse economic conditions that the virus has brought? How can governments overcome the lack of resources to meet the immediate future?

In search of answers, I have resorted to various opinions that led me to the conclusion that continuing with the prevailing social and institutional order will be impossible in the medium and long term. Humanity must restructure the lines of coordination of countries through international agreements that make possible a supportive environment for survival and harmonious coexistence.

Epidemics have been present in the history of mankind[i], have marked the punctual reality of many populations and coincidentally important changes in social organization have occurred.

In the sixth century, a pandemic known as the” plague of Justinian” appeared in the middle of the Byzantine Empire, the first recorded. The imperial capital lost almost 40% of its population and claimed the lives of 4 million people in the entire empire. Many historians see this weakening of the Byzantine Empire as one of the dividing lines between the sunset of antiquity and the coming Middle Ages.

In the Middle Ages, the Black Death affected humanity, becoming one of the largest pandemics in history. Its worst time was between 1346 and 1553. It gave rise to a strong impetus to scientific research and five centuries later, its animal origin was discovered. As a result of this pandemic the European population decreased from 80 to 30 million people. Some historians argue that the death toll caused by the pandemic, resulting from a strong migration from the countryside to the cities, may have accelerated the start of the Renaissance and the beginning of the “modernization” of Europe.

Smallpox is the one with the highest mortality reported in the world. It is said to have appeared about 10000 B.C. In the eighteenth century it decimated entire populations, reaching mortality rates of up to 30%. Its vaccine was found in 1796.

Between 1918 and 1920, the Spanish Flu killed about 100 million people; its proliferation was favored by the First World War that put an end to the four great empires of Europe: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the German Empire and the Russian Empire. The fierce censorship of the countries involved in the first World War hid the seriousness of the epidemic that was globalized with the massive and rapid movement of military personnel around the world.

In 1957, the avian influenza A (H2N2) virus was recorded for the first time in the Yunan Peninsula, China, with one million deaths worldwide. Just ten years later, in 1968, the so-called Hong Kong flu, a variation of the influenza A (H3N2) virus, appeared. A million people were the victims of this new strain of the flu.

The first cases of one of the most serious and recent pandemics, the Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) occurred in 1981.  It is estimated that HIV has caused about 25 million deaths worldwide, to date there is no vaccine, the treatments with specialized drugs have managed to prolong life.

COVID19 appeared at the end of 2019 and in a short time has managed to spread globally, making it difficult to control.  The current pandemic has highlighted global public health failures and weaknesses at borders and in the current measures to contain it.  As of August 2020, an estimated 800,000 deaths are reported.

This has reminded us of the vulnerability of the human being, his inability to live in solidarity in a society that has reversed values and forced us to review history and project our transcendence.

What have we learned from previous pandemics?

The economic significance of the consequences of the current pandemic is the most important in contemporary history since the nineteenth century. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)[ii] projects by the end of 2020:

  • A contraction of the economy in the region of 5.3%. with an unemployment rate of 11.5%; an additional 3.4 percentage points over the 2019 level (8.1%), bringing the number of unemployed in the region to 37.7 million in 2020, compared to 26.1 million in 2019.

  • An increase in poverty in Latin America of at least 4.4 percentage points (an additional 28.7 million people) compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 214.7 million people (34.7% of the population of the region).

  • An increase in extreme poverty by 2.6 percentage points (an additional 15.9 million people), affecting a total of 83.4 million people (13.5 per cent of the population of the region).

  • An increase in inequality. The Gini coefficient would record increases ranging from 0.5% to 6.0%.

This is an economic collapse that will be followed by a recovery, which according to the OECD would take at least two years to return to the situation of the 2019 fourth quarter.

Faced with this situation, governments apply palliative measures  to help contain the virus spread such as: allocate resources to the prevention, detection, control, treatment, and containment of the virus; to provide basic services to the people who should be quarantined and to the affected companies; providing wage subsidies to persons and businesses; to increase and expand cash transfers and basic products to the vulnerable groups.

In the tax sector, they are granting relief to individuals and companies that cannot cope with the payment of their taxes through debt deferment, reduction of interest and fines; extension of deadlines filing and payment of returns and expediting refunds among others. In addition, operations to provide services to citizens, taxpayers and importers continue, making maximum use of electronic means and virtual communication systems.

According to data collected by ECLAC, the average fiscal effort expected in Latin America to meet the expenses of the pandemic is on average 3.2 percent of GDP, with a maximum of 11.1 percent in El Salvador and a minimum of 0.2 percent in Haiti.

However, the agency notes that fiscal efforts to address the crisis take place in an unfavourable and highly uncertain macroeconomic environment, due to the following factors:

  • Limited fiscal space, as a result of persistent deficits and increased public debt in the pre-crisis years;

  • Lower tax revenues due to the fall in the level of economic activity and prices of natural resources;

  • important short-term public expenditure requirements to strengthen health systems, protect the well-being of the population and maintain employment.

CIAT collection report COVID – 19 (RRC), July 2020 shows declines in collection in member countries that complicate their fiscal situation. According to this report, the level of accumulated revenue to May 2020 fell on average by 12.1% compared to the same period of 2019.

The deterrent capacity of tax administrations seems insufficient to overcome the impact that the crisis will have on revenue to meet the minimal needs generated by the pandemic.

It is clear that after years of governments, countries have not foreseen the economic and social conditions necessary to control natural phenomena such as the one that has arisen and which, as we have seen before, are not new to humanity.

This situation is giving rise to multiple speculations regarding the future of humanity from the virus, such as the following:

Mireille Delmas-Marty,[iii] a French jurist, Professor Emeritus of the Collège de France and a member of the Institute of France, thinks that public outrage at social inequalities, the uprisings of new generations and the call of scientists on climate change have not been enough warnings. She says that it took a virus to shake the world and shake the certainties of social leaders.

Delmas-Marty says that the health crisis is an almost perfect demonstration of the degree of interdependence achieved by our societies, that no state or national community could in time remain lonely and that the time has come for sovereignty to become solidarity and that everyone must take care of the world’s common goods, whether it be climate or health. Only the global community will be able to define common goals and responsibilities for States, international organizations, and multinational enterprises.

An article published by La Voz de Argentina refers to the Human Development Report 2020 of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) [iv], highlighting that Covid-19 has exposed structural failures at the global level such as poverty, failures in education, lack of work and environmental issues, which affect the whole world and warns that it is time to address them. According to the article, Inger Andersen, executive director of the Environment program of the UN holds that “nature is telling us that the health and the planet are interconnected; nothing will ever be the same, but it can be better if we all, people and communities, make wise choices, aware of what mark we leave on the planet.”

The same article mentions the agency’s Development Program Administrator, Achim Steiner, who noted that ” we must rethink our economic and social models; every crisis brings with it an opportunity that global leaders must take””

I personally believe in this regard that facing the conditions that the economy, the distribution of natural goods and the health situation present, force institutions to look beyond their realities and to foresee conditions that tend to a better identity and integration of the protagonists of these tragic natural scenarios of exception, in which those who must provide social order cannot do it, and those who live it do not know it.

Universal citizenship must benefit from better conditions of solidarity to ensure the effectiveness of the efforts required by natural threats in a world in which social anomie and natural conditions are presented by an overflowing population growth and the limited and vulnerable use made of the technology available today support the belief that human’s survival can be addressed only through development.

Alvaro Bedoya[v], founder and director of Georgetown University’s technology and Privacy Center, believes in the case for universal monitoring.  He mentions that the emotions of living among the masses and exploring social life in cities are an antidote to the anomie imposed by modernity; that our ability to protest against a government, without fear of being watched or persecuted is an inherent element of the status of anonymous citizen, but such a right does not add value to economies. Emotional explorations or street protests form the most important dimension of the social fabric of liberal democracy, we can begin to appreciate what they both provide us. He argues, however, that in the coming years the Western societies will have to decide whether to continue to allow the free movement of anonymous persons in their cities”

Bedoya argues that the legal norms that protect the right to anonymity constitute a historical accident, that the socio-economic system, a successful technology driver, has always lacked the capacity (or even the need) to invent and impose a system to track everyone at all times and that the arrival of covid-19 has removed those limits. He concludes that “the arguments in favour of universal monitoring will be more than formidable and above all  quantifiable:” X “thousands of deaths that are avoided “” and “millions of jobs that are maintained, and” Z ” billions of euros in gross domestic product that are not lost”.

Pedro Canales[vi] in the Spanish publication Atalayar, says that once the pandemic is controlled, ” each country will have to face its own reconstruction after the hecatombe generated and together face an uncertain future”. The missing global leadership could be assumed by the UN, provided new statutes are adopted and the Security Council is reorganized or abolished by creating other executive councils by area.

He warns that it is “necessary to provide an executive global structure to prevent future and perhaps more dangerous pandemics such as that of an undetectable computer virus that could collapse the international system””

He argues that no country can stand as a guide and impose itself, neither at the UN, or WHO, the World Bank, FAO or the International Monetary Fund. COVID-19 has abolished these privileges with its massacre. As a step forward to the global restructuring of the concert of nations, it is essential to strengthen regional cooperation and interaction.

Perhaps on the eve of gradual and prolonged changes in social organization, the pandemic has warned of the inconvenience of continuing with the existing poverty and inequality in the universe.    While the display of wealth and power passes through the noses of the neediest, it is good that everyone is responsible for his or her rights to emerge in society simultaneously with the obligation to remain in it in solidarity.

As Bedoya anticipates, perhaps the time has come to monitor behaviors from laying foundations in the universal Register of humanity.

The virus has put on the agenda the need to reorganize national and international institutions and renegotiate new agreements among nations. If they fail, their actions may turn out to be the “music of the global shipwreck”.


[i] National Geographic, great pandemics of history
[ii] ECLAC, Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean. Fiscal policy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic crisis (COVID-19) 2020
[iii] MIREILLE DELMAS-MARTY, Someter la globalización a reglas del Derecho
[iv] For the UN. Covid-19 forces a rethink of the world
[v] Alvaro Bedoya, fights for the right to anonymity
[vi] Pedro Canales, COVID-19 forces to rethink all international organization

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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