Looking beyond the pandemic: Could the world economy gain more than it lost to COVID-19?


Когда в марте 2020 года стало ясно, что пандемия коронавируса разрастается до поистине глобальных масштабов, шли бурные дискуссии на тему методов борьбы с болезнью. Всё сводилось к выбору: введение ограничений или сохранение экономики. Спустя 15 месяцев очевидно, что это был ложный выбор: все государства, удержавшие свои экономические показатели на плаву, предпринимали все возможные меры для борьбы с COVID-19. McKinsey подготовили исследование, объясняющие, почему ограничения оправдали себя

For more than a year, the world has been battling SARS-CoV-2 and the economic impact of this great pandemic. While there is an enormous amount of work left to do across the globe, countries leading the COVID-19 exit have given us a glimpse of how hearts and minds can shift to reunions with friends and family, and a return to more normal work and life. As we emerge, what is the right paradigm to guide our collective effort of transitioning through the end of the pandemic to a better future for all?

In March 2020, we suggested that the imperatives of our time were the battles needed to flatten two curves: the curve of the viral spread and the curve of the economic shock. Today, after two terrible peaks of viral spread, and with the vaccine rollout progressing, some regions are finally close to flattening both curves (Exhibit 1). Many others have seen three or even four peaks; their situation remains difficult, and in some countries is as bad as it has ever been. Even some countries that flattened their curves early are again at risk, as new variants spread and vaccination rates are low. The battle is far from over.

Of course, governments have applied public-health measures and economic stimulus with varying intensity, and experienced different impacts on mortality and their economies. But one thing is now clear. In early 2020, there was a debate on the trade-off between the virus and the economy. At that time, we suggested that the question was off the mark: there was no trade-off. The facts are now clear: as this article will show, no country kept its economy moving well without also taking control over the virus spread.

The big question now is what should public- and private-sector leaders focus on next? Is the agenda still about how we deliver on the twin imperatives of safeguarding lives and livelihoods? We think so. But what do the twin imperatives mean when we translate them into the current reality and the possibilities for the next decade? Three broad beliefs shape our answers.

  • First, 3 to 4 percent global economic growth is achievable with available technology—a “productivity miracle” is not needed.
  • Second, we do not have to choose between sustained and inclusive growth—quite the opposite, these goals can be complementary. Past periods of sustained growth have shown across countries and over time that “a rising tide” is a tried and true way to “lift all boats.”1
  • Third, the medical advances and process accelerations achieved in response to this pandemic open the possibility that we spark a renaissance in public-health innovation and delivery and make rapid and unprecedented progress tackling persistent health problems.

If global leaders set the expectations that these outcomes are possible, and act on them, then the world could be on the cusp of a new age of prosperity: an economic recovery that will add 30 to 50 percent to GDP over the next decade, with better quality of life for more people, and a more sustainable future for the planet. If not, then the recovery could end up adding only 10 to 20 percent to GDP, less equitably distributed, less sustainable, and with worse outcomes for global health and the environment.

It’s an extraordinary opportunity—and a commensurate challenge. The road ahead will be rough in places. The first year of the pandemic and the policies designed in response have had a profound impact on how people regard their governments, on how well economies are positioned to rebound from the crisis, and how much public and private debt has been accumulated through weathering the economic disruption. However, provided the world’s public- and private-sector leaders make the right moves, a new age of prosperity for all could become a reality.

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