By Norris McDonald I
March 22 (The Gleaner-Jamaica) Brazil far-right leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, is now begging the thousands of Cuban doctors he had expelled to return to help them in their own fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cuban Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology surprised the world by announcing it has Interferon Alpha 2B, among 10 other anti-COVID-19 medicines, that were approved by the Chinese government.
These drugs, at the heart of China’s grave COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic, were produced in China and used, with remarkable success, to fight the viral plague.
Interferon Alpha 2B is one of the main drugs in Cuba’s biotech arsenal. It works by strengthening the body’s immune system to fight the invading COVID-19 viral plague.
This is truly remarkable news!
The Cuban announcement of their biotechnological success in having the coronavirus drug must come as quite a shock to the Western world.
Cuba and China teamed up to dispatch medical specialists to Italy, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom.
Jamaica is also getting medical assistance from Cuba.
Cuba has been under an American-imposed economic embargo for the last 50 years. Food, oil imports, medicine, and many industrial products were banned, along with stringent foreign-currency sanctions.
Cuban scientists had to battle the onset of many epidemics. This includes the sudden onset of mysterious illnesses such as swine flu, haemorrhagic dengue, and other viral plagues.
Many years later, they were in a position to provide crucial healthcare assistance to many African countries battling the Ebola crisis.
Since then, they have translated their experiences into the study of the Ebola epidemic, SARS, MERS, and other severe respiratory diseases that can lead to death.
Now, we have the positive advancement in Cuban education, medicine, science, and biotechnology that puts them at the forefront of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, 15 nations have asked Cuba to give them information on their drug and to help them fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, as global anxieties rise, triggered by real and imagined fears, stocks and money markets are spinning out of control to the point where Goldmann Sachs is now advising their customers to sell the American dollar.
Jamaica, and other developing countries, will clearly, face extreme pressures on domestic currencies as the international markets continue the wild see-saw, roller-coaster run.
Also, with consumers’ travel plans disrupted by the necessary medical emergency strategies to break the infection cycle, many countries – including Jamaica and Caribbean neighbours – will lose a big chunk of their tourism revenue.
Given this reality, the Government ought to team up with CARICOM partners and other developing nations to seek debt relief from the International Monetary Fund and the debtor nations.
In addition, with oil price dropping to US$31 per barrel,the Government ought to take advantage of the dramatic fall in oil prices to buy futures contract.
This would be a wise investment from Jamaica’s foreign-exchange reserves. It would generate future savings and potential income from resale of these petroleum futures contract down the road.
What do you think?
As sad as it is, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed how wrong it is to measure economic successes on the basis of the irrational movements of stock prices and market indices.
Economic success must be based on the viability of production systems such as factories, farms, and small businesses that produce goods and services to solve consumer needs.
Now that the markets have crashed, what is next?
An economic downturn was long expected, and now, the coronavirus crisis has revealed the importance of having long-term plans to mitigate against any crisis situation.
Investors in America and other Western industrialised nations are begging governments to buy their stocks and hold them until the markets recover. But any rescue plans that include stock buy-back would be grossly unfair to taxpayers, and besides, makes no moral, political, or economic sense.
Big corporations use their profit to buy back their own stocks, pump up stock prices, and do not reinvest their money into their companies.
These big corporations never cared about the public interests, pay no taxes, do not reinvest profits but only engage in stock buy-backs to boost share prices, and hide profits in off-the-books, offshore, tax-dodging bank accounts.
Corporations must, therefore, face a reality check. They need to cut their exorbitant managerial pay, cut business expenses, cut waste, and eliminate fraudulent bookkeeping.
They ought to share the burden of economic recovery, in my opinion, by pulling funds from offshore bank accounts to reinvest in their companies.
It is the populace that needs financial support and not the tax-dodging, profit-hiding corporations.
But what will happen if and when another global pandemic strike?
Yes, my friends, this coronavirus pandemic is a call to action.
Cuba and China are teaching the world how to rapidly respond to a sharp healthcare crisis.
They were able to rapidly respond since among other things, they invested in building a comprehensive healthcare system, invested in biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries so that they could solve the needs of society even in times of an acute crisis.
Now that Cuba and China have teamed up to produce the anti-viral coronavirus drug that worked effectively in China, they are now, quite selflessly and conscientiously, providing medical assistance to many countries suffering under the COVID-19 viral plague.
If there is any bitter truthful lesson to be learned, the world should study the benevolent Chinese and Cuban response to this coronavirus crisis.
Cuba, even at the height of scarce financial resources, built an outstanding healthcare system where even foreigners go for low-cost medical care.
Finally, the coronavirus crisis has exposed how irrational it is to have a healthcare system whereby the issue of who live or die depends on race, income levels, and social class in society.
That is just the ‘bitta’ truth!