Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Covid-19: Aftermath and future perspectives

 Except for two world wars, never since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic has the world been in such panic. We are in lockdown and we now have social-distancing and self-isolation to contend with. Death is looming around the world and politicians are struggling to get the world back to normality. How did we get there and where are we going?
In December 2019, the Chinese city of Wuhan first identified the deadly coronavirus infectious disease, which has now caused massive numbers of death around the world. As of yet the world experts have not found answers or a cure, as a result governments have locked us down and are coping with the rise in cases and deaths as best they can, so far with some partial results. Governments have dealt with the pandemic in different ways, some better than others, but the lack of testing remains a major obstacle as data remain sparse at best. Recommended measures like 14 days self-isolation may mitigate the rise of cases. Estimates put the possible deaths in the thousands if not millions. The lack of solid data has caused panic and given rise to many conspiracy theories.
The virus origins are still being investigated. The first cases where found in China, the political rhetoric and spinning have done nothing to alleviate our fears. The Chinese government has accused the Americans of spreading the virus, and President Trump has called the disease a ‘Chinese virus’. While the origins are being disputed a report from the South China University of Technology has surfaced commenting on experiments using horseshoe bats and stated: “The killer coronavirus probably originated from a lab in Wuhan. Safety levels may need to be reinforced in high risk bio-hazardous laboratories.”  China was very late in advising the world of the outbreak, and it seems that it may have been too late for necessary precautions to be taken; hence a worldwide infection became inevitable.
Governments and world institutions have failed us. The World Health Organization (WHO) was very late in declaring the outbreak a pandemic, while the WHO leadership consistently covered the Chinese government for its lack of transparency. Italy became the first European country to see the rise of daily number of deaths, followed by Spain and France, and now the United Kingdom. In the United States the first cases where found in the State of Washington and has now spread in all fifty States with New York being the epicentre. Much of the uncontrollable rise in cases and deaths may well be due to the refusal to close borders and flights from abroad. In Canada the greatest number of cases and deaths are in the four cities which were still open to flights from abroad. Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta As data is collected models project thousands of deaths before the pandemic is brought under control. All sports activities and competitions have been suspended and gatherings of more than 15 people has been prohibited. The irony is that ordinary citizens can be fined and prosecuted for being outside, the left social justice zealots would like to see prisoners released,
The number of deaths and the inability to control the rise of the disease has not stopped the politics. Governments have had to inject trillions of dollars into the economy as a world recession is expected. It is the role of government to protect its citizens but it is the different approaches that should alarm us. Politicians always find a way to use a crisis for political gains, some more than others. The massive injection of money into the economy gave some politicians the latitude to try and increase their powers. In Canada Prime Minister Trudeau, who incidentally has been self-isolating himself since the beginning of the pandemic, has tried to get dictatorial powers to tax and spend without the approval of Parliament. In Great Britain former Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are asking for  ‘temporary’ World Government, once achieved we know how temporary this will last.  The idea of a ‘world government’ is no longer a real of conspiracy theory as it is now being discussed openly. The new Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland also espoused those views openly. Many see this new world order as a means to extend Keynesian economic theories through The  World Bank and  the International Monetary Fund as they claim  an increase in their financial firepower to cope with the impact of the crisis on low- and middle-income countries. The idea of a one world government has long been percolating in leftist circles, but now in opposition to Trump’s policies it has now surfaced openly. The composition, without the U.S, is still being considered.
Trump may be blamed for many things but he must also be given credit for his open trade war on China and his departure from globalist policies. The coronavirus crisis has exposed the fragility of the reliance of supply chains, mainly from China. The majority of pharmaceuticals are produced in China and now the shortages are very apparent. Given the source of the virus, can we trust China’s Huawei for the implementation of 5G networks? Furthermore the World Trade Organization’s regulations have given China so much latitude that they virtually control many of the world’s manufacturing. Despite these failures the left sees the crisis as an opportunity to counteract Trump’s views of ‘America first’. In my view this is going to be the next drama of division in the international arena.
All the while the crisis has also provided many opportunities due to the closure of businesses, schools and the heavy burden of the healthcare institutions. As we come out of this dangerous crisis we can use what we have learned to make drastic changes to the way we work, live and play. In future I see an increase use of the internet as a means of delivery for many of our services. Education has already embraced online schooling. The medical profession can see many opportunities to streamline how we provide healthcare. There are opportunities to re-engineer many of our public sector organizations. Economic measures must be measured and responsible, too much reliance on Keynesian theories may harm us in the long run. Philip Cross writes:  “Canada wasted its opportunity to focus on policies that raise long-term potential…Unrelenting monetary and fiscal stimulus gradually reduces the economy’s long-term potential growth rate.”
As I mentioned earlier our governments have failed us, and we should remember what Obama said in 2012: "If you've got a business—you didn't build that”, fortunately in this crisis it is being proven that it is the private sector that has come to the rescue, producing thousands of personal protective equipment, gloves and masks. Grocery stores, restaurants and fast food small businesses have continued to feed us while we are confined in our homes, Trump’s call to the private sector has been answered in no uncertain terms.
While the world struggles to cope with this unprecedented pandemic, we must also examine the role of the media. It is important to get unadulterated news that informs the public to avoid panic. Unfortunately, for political reasons this has not been the case during this time of need. Too many reports have actually caused panic buying and shortages. The hate for President Trump is apparent in many media reports. First he was branded a xenophobe for trying to close the borders for flights coming to the United States. There are calls for the curtailment of his daily briefings because it may be used as a campaign platform. His every word is being parsed to find a chink in his armor. All the while the media has ignored many of the problems of other leaders, Canadian media has used every Trump faux pas , increasing cases and deaths, to inoculate the Canadian Prime Minister who has been absent, except for a daily outing out of his residence like Wiarton Willie out of his den. They have ignored, quite deliberately, the reports that Canada sent tonnes of health equipment and lab viruses to China. European leaders have failed miserably as death tolls rise in Britain.  Boris Johnson and his health Minister have both contracted the virus. The European reaction to the pandemic has been slow at best, but the eyes are all on Trump. It is stated that the number of deaths in the U.S has surpassed those of China, but can we rely on data coming from the WHO and China?
There is no doubt that the world will have weeks if not more months of hardship as we face the consequences of this pandemic. However I strongly believe that we shall come out of this stronger if we take the right steps. There are many opportunities; necessity is the mother of invention, and we are seeing this take place every day. Innovation, not government platitudes will get us out of this crisis.
 Bob Dylan sang: ‘the times they are a-changin’ - and they have. We must use what we have learned to make better choices, less reliance on government for certain services that can be better provided by the private sector. Be aware and very cautious of politicians who would use this crisis to acquire greater powers, especially their agenda to increase reliance on international organizations leading us a to a One world global government.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Covid-19 – The opportunity that lies in every crisis

The Covid-19 virus has hit the world with a force perhaps greater than WWII. The world is closed and people are out of work and it seems that our health system is struggling to cope, at least in some countries. Our world has changed; there are lessons to be learnt and opportunities to seize upon. The big question is whether our politicians will make the right decisions?
This virus, which originated in Wuhan –China, has attacked the world like a nuclear bomb. Those not directly affected are hangered down in their homes. European streets look ghost towns. Canada and the U.S have declared their borders closed except for essential transportation. There are few planes in the sky, and most hotels and eateries are closed. Schools and corporations are now operating in cyberspace. The entire world’s health system is under siege and medical shortages are being experienced. In other words the pandemic is real and panic has stricken the world.
Governments around the world have for the most part reacted to alleviate the hardships caused by the pandemic. Some better than others, Taiwan and Singapore seem to have reacted quickly and averted mass infections. China where it all started is entering a phase of fewer infections due to their autocratic reaction which saw the use of the army and forced isolation. Unfortunately for the Western world, our leaders have been less opened to drastic measures. Delays in closing borders, the use of democratic self-isolation and fewer testing may be the cause of the rising number of cases and deaths. While I believe that we are equipped to surmount this disaster, it will take some time to get back to normality. Are the decisions made by our leaders going to protect us in the future? Or are we going to see changes that may be used to make our world better and more efficient?
Covid-19 is a health issue, but it is affecting every aspect of our lives. To take a page from the left: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” A crisis always provides challenges and opportunities, and we should seize the day. Governments are currently focused on two challenges –health and finance, but they should also come with strategies for the long term. An analysis of the cause an effect of this pandemic should lead us to many opportunities and there are many opportunities for the world.
On a global level, let us acknowledge that Trump’s adversarial position towards China is now being proven right. For years China has been building itself into a position to be the world’s leader. Their preferential trade recognition and the use of their cheap labor, has placed the rest of the world in a positon of reliance which is now gone too far. The vast majority of basic pharmaceutical ingredients come from China. The world trade depends very much on goods produced in China. The western world obsessed with climate change, have shifted many of their productions to China, while reducing their carbon footprint they have also increased China’s CO2 emissions. So where is the gain? In fact in the long run it has been a net loss for the industrialised world, now so dependent on China. Trump’s tariffs may not be the preferred means of getting the world economy in good shape, but it certainly exposed China for what the regime is all about. Governments trying to set fiscal and monetary policies to avert a depression may well have to consider their relationship vis-à-vis China. As deficit spending becomes the norm, governments should also have long term strategies to deliver services in alternative means.
As self-isolation becomes the norm rather than the exception; we see opportunities in many sectors of the economy. Fast food and groceries need more workers for delivery of their goods. The internet is being used to continue work from home and deliver classes to students isolated at home.
Covid-19 has exposed many of our problems, and yet we have the opportunity to move forward with new ways of delivering services. For years I have advocated for the increase use of the internet to provide better education. Now that classes have started to be delivered in cyberspace it is time to look at making online delivery more permanent. Kindergarten to grade 7 should have more face-to face contact because in these formative years basic education and social skills are important. Once they have been prepared grades 8-12 should use the internet to greater use. They would require 3 days in school and the rest can be done at home with guidance from teachers via the internet. A change in education delivery may not come immediately, but we now have the opportunity to experiment, learn and adapt. We will need to increase broadband. Money saved from brick and mortar schools can easily be transferred to investment in cyber delivery. Fewer teachers may be needed, but childcare services may have to be improved.
Healthcare in Canada has been shown to be less capable, despite the hard work of medical professionals. The idea that we continue to insinuate that our system is the best in the world it cannot be further from the truth. We spend a lot of money and yet we do not get the care we should receive. The idea that privatization should not be part of the system is erroneous. Basic services should be covered and there should be a choice allowed for people who can afford them. Unions stand in the way of progress, and we should find ways of delivering services in a more efficient manner. The use of doctor/patient interaction by means of the internet is welcomed but we should limit this practice to just minor ailments. In fact there are too many instances where patients just go to the doctor or hospitals for minor issues. Master nurses and pharmacists can help alleviates the burden put on doctors and hospitals. We can no longer be at the mercy of healthcare unions to find better surgery wait times.
Covid-19 has placed Canada in a very precarious financial bind. Trudeau’s affinity for deficits and his obsession with U.N policies has virtually crippled the economy. With only 1.6% of the world’s carbon emission, his decision to curb the expansion of the oil and gas industry has created havoc in Western Canada. His reconciliation policy has divided the country and created a movement of lawlessness among certain groups. His self-isolation, sic – ‘hiding’ has demonstrated that Trudeau is not fit to lead this country. The current financial crisis was already in motion due to his policies against the oil industry. Canada’s economy was already contracting before Covid-19 or the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The opportunity is for the country to seek a new government, but that will require other political parties to stand up and be counted.
As we search for solutions and opportunities, government leaders must reassure the citizenry and encourage calm. The media must stop its sensational and bias reporting which causes more panic than reassurance. The public must refrain from panic buying, which creates unnecessary shortages when in fact there is no problem with the supply chain. We must all do our part to get through these unprecedented and difficult times. Collaboration may well get us through this within weeks instead of months- Do your part, stay well and healthy, and be opened to opportunities and change.

Monday, 16 March 2020

A Leaderless world devoid of followers

Kelly McParland opines in the National Post: “World suffering from poor leadership and short-sightedness” . While we are navigating in uncharted waters, he laments that: “Leadership doesn’t necessarily cause crises, but its absence is usually a key component,”, but he fails to explain why we have no leaders today.
In my view the world has been leaderless for the past 20 years, which has seen wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rise of terrorism, together with health crises including SARS, MERS, H1N1, Ebola and now Covid-19. The real problem is in a so-called new world order, where we are governed by what I term ‘the collective’. Nations have surrendered much of their sovereignty to global organizations, like the EU, NATO, WTO and the UN, to name but a few. It seems that for the past twenty years every problem has had to be resolved in consultation among nations. It is not wrong to have consensus when faced with global issues, but too often the solutions have resulted in more encroachment in national sovereignty. As a backlash we have seen a rise in populism which culminated in Trump’s election and Brexit.
Ever since Trump’s election, the main stream media has labelled him as a liar and basically a disaster. The left for three years have undermined his presidency because he dislikes the establishment, and the continued reliance on globalism. The left hates him, because they preferred Obama the appeaser and conciliator who preferred to resolve problems through the ‘collective’. Trump is not the ‘great communicator’ that Reagan was, but he is definitely his own ‘messenger’. I may not always agree with his style and rhetoric, but he certainly has challenged every status quo of globalism, which in my view is the cause for the absence of true leadership.
Despite the claim that there is a lack of leadership, I will contend that in this ‘woke’ world we live in, it is difficult to be a leader. One cannot lead today because if you stand up, you are labelled as a nail and therefore the hammer of the collective will smash you. As a result autocrats like Putin, Xi and terrorist groups have filled the vacuum. For years, the world has relied upon the U.S to be the policeman of the world, but Trump has decided that he will not allow it to continue without collaboration which includes proper financial contribution. He is often blamed for displaying an affinity for Xi, Putin and Kim, but those people who disagree with him forget that the concept of diplomacy is to obfuscate to gain an advantage in a negotiation strategy. I do not for one minute believe that Trump is a collaborator or supporter of these regimes, a rhetoric which his opponents often use against him.
There is no doubt that Trump made some mistakes in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis, but now that Europe is the epicentre of the pandemic, no one seems to give him credit for closing the borders. The ‘collective’ has always favoured open borders, and we see that even today the Canadian PM is still reluctant to close the country’s borders.
Covid-19 may well be the catalyst to awaken the world to a new form of collaboration. Trump with his tariffs, which I do not support but actually worked, exposed China for what the world has allowed for years. It is now evident that we cannot allow ourselves to be at the mercy of China as a major source of the supply chain. It is time for the Western world to control its own source of pharmaceuticals and not rely on China for 90% of its supply. For too long nations have agreed to relinquish their sovereignty to world organizations under the guise of collaboration, Trump is the one to force a change, and yet we lament that we have no leadership.
 The rest of the world has been asleep at the wheel while certain forces have taken advantage which has resulted in the chaos we find ourselves today. To have leadership we need followers, however the world seems to have decided that we are all leaders, yet no one wants to take the responsibility. When things go bad, we are very quick to blame the one who tries to make change.
In this latest global crisis, there has been no national leader who has been able to rise to the task, Trump may not be the one that most people want to be a leader, but right now he is the so-called leader of the world. To believe that he could be replaced by a ‘communist, or a ‘bumbler’ makes me shudder at the very thought of this happening. The left is quietly but surely wishing for a world recession to blame Trump, despite the fact that for the past three years we have seen enormous economic gains..  So the world is not without a leader, the problem is that we are devoid of sane followers, who have been brainwashed by the main stream media and conspiracy theorists on the internet.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

A Prime Minister fast asleep at the wheel

The advent of the Covid-19, belatedly acknowledged as a pandemic, is hurting the world in more ways than one. The world economy is tittering on the verge of a recession, caused by a health issue coupled with a war between Russia and Saudi Arabia which has crumbled the price of oil. Governments around the world are scrambling, and yet Canada is still wandering what to do. The bigger question is where is the Prime Minister?
Ever since the virus was identified in China the spread of the epidemic has grown by leaps and bounds. While the rise of cases in China is plateauing, the numbers are rising in other parts of the world. Italy, South Korea and Iran are the ones mostly affected. Passengers on cruise ships are being quarantined because of the spread in confined quarters. What is causing panic is that there are now cases of community infection. The World Health Organization has been slow to react and the media and the Democrat Left has seized upon themselves to search for means of blaming Trump for whatever happens in the United States. The Canadian media, every night, spends more time talking about Trump rather than giving the Canadian public a more detailed explanation of what is happening in Canada. British Columbia is the province with the most cases, followed by Ontario and now Alberta. 
The Canadian economy is not only being hurt by Covid-19, but is damaged by the recent blockades and also now by the fall in oil prices. In all cases the Trudeau government has been slow to react and so far Canadians have no answer from this feckless PM, who is more interested in a UN seat instead of the welfare of the nation. Alberta’s economy which is being decimated by the lack of oil and gas development and a low price of oil, is now facing a more dire future. The Kenney government will have to reassess its latest budget and make more difficult decisions. Given the loss of revenue, it is clear that without drastic measures the deficit will grow.  The NDP opposition, just like the Democrats in the U.S., seem to be wringing their hands at the thought of an economic collapse for political reasons.
The International Monetary Fund is asking that governments around the world “to implement targeted fiscal, monetary and financial measures to help households and businesses weather the impact of the corona virus”. But it is not only the virus affecting the economy, environmental and oil policies are perhaps larger factors.  Opec countries are losing $500m a day, Quebec has lost some $4B of investment in a LNG project, Alberta lost Teck Resources proposed $20B oil-sands mine. Furthermore the delay in the Transmountain pipeline continues to be a major barrier to growth in Alberta. All governments are being urged to take measures to mitigate the unpredictable circumstances, but the Trudeau government mired in its ideological environmental policies coupled with the inability to make tough decisions due to their ‘reconciliation’ policy is now fully responsible for an upcoming recession made in Canada.
It is perhaps ironic that the Covid-19 will be the catalyst for governments to start using technology together with fiscal and monetary policies to create a better economic environment. As personal contact is being frowned upon, schools and businesses are encouraging people to stay at home. For teachers unions, who are bickering about their wages and large classes, let me advise them that they are playing with fire. I encourage governments to implement classes via the internet for students in grades 9 -12. They can have classes for three days and work from home for two days. That will free teachers to have more time to focus on development of younger students from grades 5 – 8 who need more attention in their formative years. Class size, the curmudgeon used by teachers’ unions becomes a moot point. This is just one example on how technology can be used to cut costs. Furthermore governments need to stimulate the economy, not by spending but by cutting taxes. Trump is making a payroll tax cut. The Trudeau government should cut the carbon tax which is a burden on businesses and customers, and they should also consider a 1% reduction in the GST, while removing many of their environmental regulations which are detrimental to foreign investment and economic growth.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 and oil politics have had a massive impact on the stock market and the world economy. However from a Canadian point of view, our problems rest solely on the shoulder of the Liberal government fixated in ideologies emanating from a Prime Minister’s feckless behaviour and personality. His response or lack of it, in all cases is affecting this country since the beginning of year and demonstrates that his government is no longer fit to run the country.