It is still too early to predict how the South African economy will take shape, but early indications are that the economy will contract further, which will have far reaching consequences on employment and government’s ability to generate revenue. This was the view of Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr David Masondo, who was speaking at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) second webinar, entitled ‘Covid-19 and the Emerging World Order on Wednesday, 20 May 2020.
The conversation series is a collaboration between the Institute for the Future of Knowledge (IFK), the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) and the Library and Information Centre (LIC).
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“There is a lot of forecasting and modelling going on. For South Africa it is projected that we are going to have a 6 percent negative economic growth and that has huge consequences regarding employment as well as the ability of government to generate revenue is going to be seriously affected,” said Dr Masondo. He said paying attention to putting a clear economic recovery plan will grow our economy.
Hosted by Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor (UJ), speakers included Mr. Grant Harris, former Advisor to President Barack Obama on issues related to sub-Saharan Africa; Professor Dong Wang, Executive Director, Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding (IGCU), Peking University, Beijing, China and UJ’s Dr. Oluwaseun Tella, Senior Researcher, Institute for the Future of Knowledge.
Discussions at Wednesday’s event also addressed how COVID-19 is redesigning the world order, and also highlighted the geopolitical implications of the pandemic regionally and internationally. There is a prevailing view among academics and analysts that we are currently experiencing a major transition in the balance of power at the centre of the world order, from unipolarly to multipolarity. There is also considerable disagreement regarding the efficiency of these models, and the debates concerning which design is the best at creating a stable international order are still ongoing.
Mr Harris argued that it is too early to write a story on what will come out of this new world order, “what will determine how the new world order looks like, in which world leaders and countries really step up and show leadership and show a path to bring other countries together”, among other issues. “Speaking from an American perspective, the values that characterise the United States are more of openness and transparency of democracy, while China has a different model which is more of a capitalistic nature, but it has a much governance model for its citizens. So, my advice to the U.S. government would be to try find those areas of collaboration and cooperation and pursue them and staying true to the U.S side.”
Weighing in on the issue of regional and international conflicts, Dr Dong Wang said he believes China has zero interest into getting into another cold war with the US. There are ‘Super Hawks’ in the United States who get excited talking about a new cold war against China. That is challenging especially dealing with that. This new world order is not a game of winning and losing,” he said.
“The pandemic reminds us that every member of the international community must rise together in this. So, unless every country works and defeat the pandemic, no one will emerge from this as a winner.
Commenting on the soft power situation during and post COVID-19, Dr Tella said the pandemic will not significantly distort the existing power relations that we have. “It will only reinforce the decline of US led globalisation and the rise of China led globalisation. Many commentators blame the United States President, Donald Trump for the U.S current global position but the reality is that, the US has been hit by three major crises in the last two decades including the U.S led war on terrorism, 2007-2008 financial crisis and now Covid19.”
He added: “This crisis has significantly tainted America’s global image, its economic strength and disaster management capacity respectively, while China has significantly benefited from this.”
Prof Marwala added that the past few months, the world has been witnessing economic, political, social, and cultural changes, with growing discussions on the evolving world order. “If we do not plan for the future then the future is going to defeat us. This world of self-isolation, social distancing is probably going to become a reality. This requires us to start imagining how our workplaces will look like and how we deal with the movement of people from one part of a country to another.”