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Why British Economist Jim O’Neill is Wrong About India’s Response to Coronavirus

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill’s comments not only smack of a racist bias, they are also disingenuous at multiple levels.

Zakka Jacob
  • Last Updated: March 12, 2020, 2:05 PM IST
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Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill, the man who came up with the BRICS acronym, made a snarky comment while giving an interview on the novel coronavirus.

“Thank God, this didn’t start in India,” he said as he praised the efforts of the Chinese government in containing the spread of COVID-19. O’Neill’s comments not only smack of a racist bias, they are also disingenuous at multiple levels.

First, China is the reason why the world is battling with this massive pandemic of proportions we haven’t seen in many recent years. Not only did the virus originate in China, but the Chinese government tried to play down the impact of it by initially denying the scale of the tragedy. Later, as the proportions became clearer, the Chinese government just outright arrested whistle-blowers and threatened to jail anyone who would not comply.

Not just coronavirus, almost all of the major diseases in recent times from SARS to swine flu to COVID-19 now can all be traced back to live animal markets in China. The Chinese government’s response in many of these crises has initially been wanting, only got better as the scale of the tragedy became apparent. The large-scale panic we are seeing in global markets can also be attributed to just how central China has become to the global supply chain. COVID-19 could possibly be the last nail in the globalism coffin.

Instead of China, had India or any democratic country clamped down like the way Chinese authorities have, the same Jim O’Neills of the world would be crying infringement of human rights and conspiracy by an authoritarian government to shut down voices. Contrary to China, the Indian government’s response to the coronavirus has been robust and well-measured.

The decision on Wednesday to suspend travel to India by all foreign nationals on existing visas was much called for. While on the face of it, it may seem alarmist, it was a much welcome decision. While in March-April 2019, around a million-plus tourists had come, this year it is expected to be almost marginal. While it will hurt the travel and tourism industry, it is a small price to pay in the fight against coronavirus.

The Modi government moved in quickly realising the threat posed by the virus. The task force under the PMO has been meeting on a daily basis to take stock.

Almost all hospitals where testing is available have been well-stocked. There are no reports of any panic from these hospitals and testing centres. The government has been putting out massive advertisement campaigns on the dos and don’ts of how to tackle the crisis. Yes, we need more labs like the National Institute of Virology which can confirm or deny cases. But those facilities cannot be built overnight.

For a country of 1.3 billion people, so far, the number of infected cases is only 60. That in itself is an achievement. Something that people like Jim O’Neill, blinded by their agendas, cannot seem to see.

In fact, the Prime Minister has struck the right note by cancelling Holi celebrations yet making sure that Parliament functions. He has also told people to trust doctors and not quacks, not to fall for home remedies etc. If India were to come together in the next two weeks in a concerted way, not only can we beat the coronavirus but also show the world how the Indian model against such diseases actually works. Maybe that convinces naysayers like O’Neill.

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India

  • Active Cases

    1,860

     
  • Total Confirmed

    2,143

     
  • Cured/Discharged

    155

     
  • Total DEATHS

    53

     
Data Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India
Updated: April 02 (06:00 PM)
Hospitals & Testing centres

World

  • Active Cases

    749,667

     
  • Total Confirmed

    1,015,877

     
  • Cured/Discharged

    212,992

     
  • Total DEATHS

    53,218

     
Data Source: Johns Hopkins University, U.S. (www.jhu.edu)
Hospitals & Testing centres