COVID-19: Are We Asking the Right Questions about ... Unlocking the Economy?

Thinking hard about the right way to unlock the economy was the theme of CDE’s webinar. CDE executive director, Ann Bernstein, set out the challenges at the beginning of the discussion: “Nobody knows how best to deal with the complex set of issues around Covid-19 and the health, economic and social consequences of this. There is no playbook.” She argued that it is important to acknowledge that knowing what to do is difficult to discover, and that is especially the case in a country like South Africa, with our relatively weak state, enormous poverty, informal settlements, and millions of people with compromised immune systems. There is a lot of uncertainty about the current impact of the virus, but what is clear is that our economy is being devastated. GDP predictions range from minus six per cent to minus 12 per cent this year, and we expect that our horrifyingly high unemployment levels will increase by significantly more than one million people. The situation for most South Africans is increasingly desperate.