"If we’re able to reopen the economy over the summer, you’re going to see a big rebound in the third and fourth quarter in the US."
That was the assessment of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the potential recovery of the US economy later this year during a digital meeting of the Forum's COVID Action Platform on 22 April.
Launched last month, the Forum's platform aims to convene the business community for collective action to protect people’s livelihoods, facilitate business continuity and mobilize support for a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, more than 1,300 companies, organizations and individuals have joined the platform.
In addition to Mnuchin, participants on this week's webinar included Ivan Duque, President of Colombia; Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company, Hong Kong SAR, China; Rob Shuter, Group President and Chief Executive Officer, MTN Group, South Africa and Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice-Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise, India.
Here are some key quotes from the session:
On the economic situation:
Through its recent coronavirus stimulus packages the US government has delivered "an unprecedented fiscal response for small and medium sized businesses," Mnuchin said.
"It’s now the moment to have stronger multilateral action. We’re all fighting for the same ventilators, the same reactants, the same machines, and we need to have a bigger acquisition in Latin American in order to protect lives," Duque argued. He also added: "We need more liquidity from multilateral institutions," to help small businesses stay afloat and fuel Colombia's economic recovery.
"We are looking at a Roosevelt like plan – infrastructure, jobs, generous monetary package for companies - especially SMEs - to restart and survive," Kamineni said of India's planned fiscal response to the crisis.
On business continuity:
Commenting on the complex task that businesses face in the current climate, Sneader said: "We need the microscope to look at the detail of the here and now and the telescope to look far ahead. If you put a microscope in one eye and a telescope in the other you just get a headache."
"Have a group of colleagues who are very focussed on bringing back business, and have another group that can look ahead and reimagine what the business is going to be, so that what you’re bringing back isn’t a business designed for the old past but is one that is designed for the next normal," he added.
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"One thing that India has done well is that we have enough pharmaceuticals. In fact we’re sharing it with the world," Kamineni said.
She also noted that "countries are coming together to share treatment modalities - and I think that a vaccine will emerge because of so much collaborative effort”.
"We fully support leveraging the technology to deal with the pandemic. But of course it needs to be customized to the realities of Africa," Shuter said on using mobile phones for contact tracing to help contain the virus across the continent.
What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.
Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.
The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.
As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.