President Donald Trump had taken the US economy through his increasingly contentious term to a level where unemployment rates were at their lowest and traditional industry was regaining strength. He refused to take responsibility for the security and economic well-being of other countries, including close allies, beyond the absolutely necessary. In other words, he was coasting to a victory in the coming elections when COVID-19 struck. It required that he abandon his entire economic programme and shut down everything. It is only natural that with so much momentum, like the Titanic, it took time for reality to strike. Even now, he favours the economy over the need for stringent precautions.
Significantly, he declared in the early stage that the economy would exhibit a ‘pent up bounce’ after the restrictions were lifted. The huge turnout in India to purchase liquor on Monday underlines the truth of this statement. Like those who insisted on attending gatherings in mosques as they needed their ‘spiritual high’, the boozers threw every caution to the wind for their beloved spirits. Even on Tuesday, when the cost of liquor had been hiked by seventy percent by the Delhi Government, the enthusiasm was not dampened. There is a lesson to be learned by all from this phenomenon – the demand is there in all sectors, but it will require intelligent handling under the present circumstances to make the most of the potential. For instance, shopaholics, who have been denied their ‘fix’ at their favourite malls, are eager and willing, they just need the bait.
Unlike Trump, India went more by the book. It imposed the lockdown in time and is now in a position to lift it, particularly in the safer green zones. Going by the experience in the US and some other countries, where lockdown is now being deliberately violated by the citizenry, India is ensuring it is more orderly and safe. The threat remains, with the number of cases and deaths on a rising curve. The pressure, however, is just as much for a ‘return to normal’.
It is wrong for economists to believe that people will be unwilling to buy cars, or go on holidays, or party, or even see movies in multiplexes – the market has to merely make it a safe experience. Added incentives should be provided – all those cars parked in factories will cause greater losses instead of by being sold at hefty discounts, even as much a fifty percent. Who would pass up such an opportunity? Amarmani Tripathi gallivanting around Uttarakhand, despite the lockdown, is only one example of how many would be willing to visit the state despite the circumstances. Just make it possible!