TIC Analysis l
Covid 19 popularly known as the Corona Virus has taken the entire world by storm. The coronavirus COVID-19 is currently affecting 199 countries and territories around the world and 2 international conveyances: the Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan, and Holland America’s MS Zaandam cruise ship. The disease has so much of an impact on human life that experts already speak of a “Post Corona” world putting up the pandemic as a history changing event along the likes of the World Wars and the 9/11 terror attack.
Following changes are postulated in the Post Corona World both at home and abroad:
Fall of the Uni-polar Moment: The Covid 19 pandemic seems to have put the final nail in the coffin of US hegemony by depriving it of Western Europe. Many analysts assert that it was the US’s grip on Western Europe in economic linkages that allowed it to persevere in the nearly half century long Cold War and was to be its main bedrock in the neo Cold War against the Multipolar group led by China. However it seems to have been a rather abject surrender when the US suddenly decided to halt all transatlantic flights severing ties in a single stroke. President Donald Trump’s coronavirus travel ban on 26 European countries has been met with anger and confusion, with EU leaders accusing him of making the decision “without consultation”. This was compounded when the US seemingly abandoned its allies such as Italy (where instead Washington pulled out severely needed Covid 19 testing kits)
The Vacuum left by the US in Europe has been filled by China which has demonstrated itself as the manufacturing hub of the world. China’s private and public sectors are filling in gaps in equipment where other states are failing. China’’s ability stands in direct contrast to Western incapability with the Serbian President in fact blasting the European Union for its ineffectiveness while at the same time praising China for its aid. In the end, while the US vehemently resisted initial thrusts of Chinese led multipolarity in the form of the Belt & Road initiative and the 5G technology race, it seems to have surrendered Europe finally to the Middle Kingdom. Pakistan stands to gain much as it is already a vital component of the BRI through the CPEC project.
Return of the State: The so called “War on Terror” and expansion of international organisations had given the notion of a weakening of the state to both non state actors as well as supranational organisations like the EU, ASEAN etc. However the rise of Covid 19 and the lacklustre response by the EU seems to herald the return of the State. States have devolved into a free for all to protect themselves such as the Czechoslovakia seizing masks, Iran expelling pilgrims, Saudi Arabia shutting down the holy sites of Mecca and Madina strengthening the Realist assumption “states main aim is that of survival”. While non-state actors like multinational organisations (such as Jack Ma’s Ali Baba) are performing an important role, they are playing second fiddle to the State which is the primary responder to the Pandemic. The authoritarian state of China which was the main target of the virus, is the only country which has successfully contained the disease. This is all attributable to its ability to regulate the life of its citizens swiftly. 8 countries have applied China’s formula of quarantine which has locked down over one billion people in the world. Citizen rights already under pressure during the So called “War on terror” will face a new form of restrictions owing to the global struggle against the Covid 19 and as a result of the advances in online communication and collaboration tools, remote work is becoming increasingly common. similar pandemics. A similar pattern could be seen in Pakistan where physical punishments meted out by security forces to those violating lockdown have been welcomed by the general populace.
Work at Home culture: Covid-19 could permanently shift working patterns as companies are forced to embrace remote working by the pandemic find that their employees do not want to return to the office once the closures are lifted. As a result of the advances in online communication and collaboration tools, remote work was already becoming increasingly common.Online apps are seeing a massive surge in usage, whether it be a social application or a chat app for colleagues, working remotely. According to the reports, Microsoft says that its video chat and calling app Skype sees a torrent of interest. The company reports that 40 million people are using Skype daily, with 70% of the users from just a month ago. It has also witnessed a 220% increase in Skype-to-Skype calls. In the past six months, Microsoft has tallied active Skype users around 200 million. In Pakistan where Work at Home was largely restricted to freelancers, now private companies forced into this culture by the partial lockdown have started finding benefits. This practice offers many benefits to employees and businesses alike: Employees gain flexibility, avoid long commutes (which significantly impact job satisfaction), and remain free from office distractions, while businesses save on office management costs.
Emphasis on Health: Covid 19 seems to have put a focus on health infrastructure worldwide. The emergence of health workers as the frontline of a nation’s defense as opposed to the military highlights the growing importance of human security as opposed to traditional thinking. This can be referenced in the reference of Trump as a “Wartime President” with respect to the Covid 19 pandemic. In Pakistan, the emphasis on health workers who only a few months prior were under attack from lawyers is a welcome change and a godsend for the PTI government which has emphasized on health care reforms as compared to its opponents showy projects like Metro buses and Orange trains.
Cashless Society: Even prior to COVID-19, the world has been amidst a process of moving towards a cashless economy, and the use of eWallets and alternative payment methods was already on the rise. A recent recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) asks consumers to use contactless payment methods and avoid cash payments (as, in addition to involving human interaction, cash has the potential to transfer the virus via the organisms on it). That statement has sparked new initiatives taken by banks/payment companies to cope with the new reality. Pakistan is no stranger to this trend as well. State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced various facilities for banking customers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic including doorstep and drop box cheque collection facilities. The SBP also asked the banks to make arrangements for collecting cheques from registered addresses of their customers upon their request while the customers may drop their cheques in drop boxes of their banks, installed in selected branches. It is projected that once this pandmeic is over, the strides towards a cashless society will not be reversed but instead augmented by new technologies and innovations.
Mainstream Media: The Mainstream media will be among the many casualties of the Covid 19 pandemic. A large share will be on its own performance before and during the crisis. It’s tool as a purveyor of political polarization globally, regionally and domestically has dented its appeal among many. Self isolation has put emphasis more on social media where information is freely available has come at the loss of the mainstream media. The print section will be particularly impacted with sales from UK to India plummeting due to Covid 19 fears. In Pakistan, the mainstream media which was seen as the main force behind the call for a lockdown was among the first demanding a bailout despite driving a plethora of misinformation and fake news against the same government. While the demands for this bailout ostensibly stems from the Covid 19 pandemic, observers point to financial mispractice by media houses as behind the media crisis as the media was already in crisis even before the present government took over. It is also pertinent to mention that the media houses had already demanded a similar package in 2013. It is expected that the continuing media mismanagement and irresponsible reporting would lead to an overall decline in the mainstream media in Pakistan.
Self Sufficient Households: COVID-19 is likely to create a desire for Self-Reliance among households. A major social manifestation of the Covid 19 hysteria was in the much joked about toilet paper shortages that hit the Western world. Another much more worrying aspect was the stocking of arms and ammunition in American households over fears of looting in a post-apocalyptic world induced by the pandemic. Such apocalyptic fears could push many households towards self-reliance such as Energy (solar power) and food (Kitchen gardening) rather than continuing to depend on existing supply chains. Similar trends were also witnessed in Pakistan where hoarding of surgical facemasks and sanitizers led to a Do It Yourself trend. Self Reliance will also be pushed due to already existing efforts of the ruling PTI such as distributing chickens and livestock to families in order to boost food production.
Weakening of the Religious Elite: The Covid 19 crisis is expected to cause a return to religion for many as to cope with self isolation and dramatic changes, yet it may not translate as a gain for religious authorities. In Pakistan, many traditional lema have come under criticism for their failure to shut down mosques and congregational prayers despite the threat of Covid 19. The outspread of Covid 19 from Tableeghi ijtema, pilgrims from Iran and insensitive & dogmatic reaction by religious scholars to prevention measures will lead to a larger push for making autonomous religious authorities subservient to the State. The public welcoming of the arrest and debriefing of televangelists like Yusuf Pasrori and Nasir Madni is a case in point.
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