The Post-COVID-19 Economy: What We Want and How We Can Get It

By Anjum Altaf

The global economy has been brought to a halt by the lockdowns necessitated by the spread of the COVID pandemic. Governments have pledged billions of dollars to reopen and restore their economies. The big question facing progressive activists is whether they wish a return to the economy as it existed before the pandemic.

This would be a contradiction because progressives have all along been critiquing the neoliberal economic structure for its many flaws. The pandemic has also laid bare its grievous unjustness and inequalities most dramatically by the plight of the migrant workers in India. Do we wish to return to an economy where workers would be treated exactly as before?

 The pandemic provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform the economic structure in favour of labour. This could be via changes in the process of production or through enhanced welfare arrangements.

 In order to leverage this opportunity, progressives have to change the narrative and the discourse to make their case to a citizenry that has now clearly recognized the flaws in the old regime especially in the devaluation of “essential” workers. But before doing so progressives have to know what to demand, how to go about achieving those demands, and how to build alliances with labour in other countries.

 In this context, a useful first step is a webinar in which leading economists with experience in different countries could educate activists about what changes are likely in the post-COVID-19 economy, what are the opportunities to strengthen the position of labour, what measures should be demanded by labour movements, in what sequence and how should activists build global alliances.

 Such a webinar would form the basis for intense discussions among activists to formulate a set of demands and a strategic plan of action for the advancement of labour.

In the first webinar in this series, sponsored by the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences in Karachi, Dr. Anjum Altaf interviews Dr. Jayati Ghosh. Dr. Ghosh is an internationally acclaimed economist now at the University of Massachusetts after retiring from Jawaharlal University in Delhi. Dr. Altaf is a former professor of Economics and dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

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