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Anticipating Change

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After all the hullaballoo, 1 January, 2021, proved to be like just another day for most people. Panic if there is a tickle in the throat, temperature taking, concern – things have not miraculously returned to normal merely because the calendar flipped over a page! In fact, if economists and other oracles are to be believed, the impact of 2020 will last well beyond vaccine-taking – particularly in the nature of jobs and commercial activity. It has been pointed out that, just as the conventional process of producing a vaccine was speeded up manifold in the face of a global emergency, many economic processes were accelerated that would have normally taken several years. This means that people will have much less time to adjust to job market changes.

This will, of course, be experienced more in the developed nations. But, it will certainly have some impact on developing nations like India, particularly in the cutting edge technology based sectors. AI, robotics, manufacturing activity, supply chains have not only already made fundamental changes, but will continue to do so in the effort to prevent the kind of exposure faced during 2020. ‘Work from Home’ is already an accepted concept in many areas of activity and will acquire permanence. The use of communications technology to overcome problems such as educating children, providing medical care, governance, etc., has opened up possibilities that will be pursued more vigorously in the future.

The ‘self-reliance’ model may be easier for large and diverse countries like India, but smaller countries will struggle to maintain their place in the global economy. Naturally, this will have a major impact on politics, leading to reconfiguration of alliances and even the pecking order. India’s importance for many countries will increase in the effort to deny China its desired monopoly.

The effect of this on individual lives will also be considerable, in good and bad ways. Much will depend on how quickly and effectively the industries and other sectors of the economy make the changes. It is expected that the health and medical sector will benefit considerably because of the inputs already made and in the pipeline. Politicians, too, many of whom landed in the hospitals with Covid-19, should change their priorities. Communities of various kinds will understand the importance of cooperative and grassroots level action, reducing dependence on government. Hopefully, people will also learn to make the distinction between doers and just talkers, and give proper respect and importance to those who actually mattered when the trouble came.