Poverty and Pandemic

I’ll be writing this piece about poverty, opportunity, and growth from a standpoint of privilege because that is the lens I view this topic in. In a time where COVID-19 is threatening the lives of people in more ways than just infecting them, I wanted to talk about how underprepared we have been to face a pandemic that affects our health and wealth at the same time. Like with most articles, I cannot speak for everyone and these are my opinions. So, let’s get into it.

After watching an episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers ft. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (more lovingly known as AOC) where they start talking about how it’s the workers in the food-service industry who would be the most impacted individuals in this work-from-home stockade. In trying to strike a balance between having enough spaces for ill individuals to get the care that they need, reducing the rate at which the virus propagates, maintaining an economy, keeping the employment rates up, and keeping people happy till the next elections, the entire world is seeing a trend of spectacular failures in administrative power of governments. This entire situation has started to affect the rich and the poor alike and could potentially lift the veil showing us the true nature of governments and what they lack. Italy is already seeing some of the worst-case scenarios come to life, for example when doctors chose to whom they can give potentially life-saving medical care to and to whom they can’t. 

So why am I talking about both a pandemic and an opportunity for people living in poverty in the same article? It is undeniable that politicians, authority, and emergency response are the systems we have in place to protect, empower, and uplift people. To bring a comparison here, a good way to think about it is how it’s the three branches of America that support the country. The Legislative i.e. congress including the house and the senate (emergency response). The executive i.e. the President and his office (politicians). Finally, the Judicial System – The Law and courts (authority). In cases where the entire nation is as adversely affected as a pandemic, it is easy to see which system in place is working the most for the people in their capacity. 

A lot of this points towards how underprepared nations upon nations of people are to support their own countrymen in the time of need. Instead of focusing on infrastructure, we have seen the re-allocation of money towards public pacification, statues, and moral symbols. Let us work with facts and not emotions yes?

man in front of a blue wall

Funds and Infrastructure

In America, the declaration of national emergency came three days after the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by WHO. When thinking of America, a developed nation – you often think about how they are prepared for all emergencies. In fact, declaring a national emergency is not just 2 very-big words, it also opens up $50 Billion in federal reserves. The unfortunate reality is that this kind of measure would not have to be taken if the administration had decided against dissolving the office responsible for epidemic and pandemic response in 2018. 

In India, the statue of unity, built over 57 months with an investment of $350 million, was unveiled in 2018. In hindsight, this money that was used from central could have helped develop the much-needed infrastructure. According to the International Monetary Fund, India’s total deficit in 2019 was -7.5% of the GDP. The GDP in conversation, in 2019 was $592,512 Million. So 7.5% of that is about $44,513 million. In proportion $350 million is still a large number. 

Now, for this amount of money to actually make a difference, a method has to be implemented. Perhaps a government program or scheme that has a good level of outreach. This is what I consider to be an opportunity. Many people believe that an opportunity would be something you have to grab when it comes. I agree with it, but, I also believe that we should be actively creating said opportunities for properly using our privilege. A simple act of offering water to people who have shortages at their home when you yourself have no issue can mean an opportunity. Maybe becoming a mentor to someone trying to grow in the same field you’re an expert in. Going back to a governmental way of carrying out a scheme or program, there are certain characteristics that it should have, allowing it to  automatically check some of the boxes that any good system has:

  1. Employing People
  2. Reaching out to those in need
  3. Create a higher trust in the authority
  4. Improve the way of life
  5. Get access to mental and physical care

The Near Future

I mention a trustworthy authority because that would also suggest a sense of compliance with a large majority in cases of mass panic. In a utopian world, these issues would already have been taken care of making dealing with pandemics a much simpler process.

Today we see that the people who are impacted most are people who work on minimum wage and have the least access to health care, proper information, and do not have the luxury of getting paid in situations as dire as becoming self-quarantined. Like AOC mentioned in her conversation, oftentimes, the people who are impacted like this are undocumented immigrants who have fled to a nation like America to try staying alive. So, now it is yet to be seen how our governments step-up in a hungry world with economic strains and help all the people, not just the 1% who have benefitted from the years of the toiling of the less fortunate. 

A good-natured thank you is just not going to cut it anymore for governmental programs because they are no longer favors or the cherry on top, but, a necessity that needs to be measured and learned from so that we can implement large scale public support in the future. There may not be a silver lining visible to this situation right now, but, when the pandemic settles, it is going to be a true test for agencies to showcase what they have learned and for countries to achieve a higher standard of living. 

Featured Image by Jonathan Kho on Unsplash

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