COVID lessons from abroad: The myth of the strong leader 

Getting some cash into the hands of the population is the best way to kickstart the economy. The USA is very aggressively doing that

 Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro 
Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro

NHS Bureau

The pandemic, the Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee quipped, has served to explode the twin myths of the strong leader and a strong centre. The virus and the crisis, he said, required nuanced response from local leaders and authorities. A decentralized approach was working better across the world, he suggested. Some of the lessons in his own words:

• Indonesia has decided it is going to give out cash transfers and it is going to give it out entirely through a community decision making process. So, the community will decide, who are the people who are needy and choose them for the transfers. We realised that it doesn’t do any worse than centralised targeting. People make judgments about what is appropriate in a much more locally nuanced way.

• Getting some cash into the hands of the population is the best way to kick start the economy. The USA is very aggressively doing that. This is a Republican administration run by a bunch of financiers. This is not run by a bunch of socially minded liberals, but by people who used to work in the financial sector. But they have decided that just for economic survival we need to pump money into people’s hands.

• The Italian State has been run by not so distinguished people for a while. As a result, the health system was on its last legs. The US moving in a much more nationalist direction is extremely frightening for the world. The rise of China is seen as a threat and if the US starts reacting to it, it will be an extremely destabilising threat. That is something to worry about a lot.

• US and Brazil are the two countries that are messing up right and left. These are two ‘strongmen’ pretending they understand everything…but what they say every day is laughable. If anyone wanted to believe in the strongman theory, this is the time to disabuse themselves.

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