The world after the black swan

Digitalisation, the scope of state intervention, politics and the medical industry. The pandemic has changed all spheres of public life around the world.

Publikacja: 12.09.2023 02:48

The world after the black swan

Foto: Aleksander Zieliński

The pandemic has been one of the most important challenges that the world has faced in recent years. It has had an impact on all areas of people’s lives. The future of the world after the pandemic was the subject of a debate held in the “Rzeczpospolita” Lounge during the Economic Forum in Karpacz. The discussion covered different areas of life and the challenges of the world after the coronavirus. Boguslaw Chrabota, editor-in-chief of Rzeczpospolita, who moderated the discussion, began by recalling a thesis from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s famous book on “black swans” that change reality. – “Covid-19 was the best example of such a swan in Taleb’s sense”, said Boguslaw Chrabota.

Economic impact

One of the issues raised during the discussion was the effects of Covid-19 on the economies. – “This was a phenomenon that had an overwhelming impact on the global economy. From the perspective of economic analysis, all the graphs of fiscal spending, unemployment, in statistical data in the US reverted to 1945. It was a huge shock”, said Piotr Arak, director of the Polish Economic Institute. – “We have had a very rapid rise in unemployment in this super-flexible US labour market. It was slightly different in the EU. There was no such rapid rise in unemployment, but there was an economic collapse. And then a recession smaller than forecast and a fairly rapid return to economic normality”, added Piotr Arak.

As the panellists said, the pandemic had very wide-ranging effects. – “We had to learn to respond to a challenge that no one expected. This taught us how to look for answers more quickly”, pointed out Wiktor Janicki, CEO of AstraZeneca Pharma Poland.

– “There were a lot of new questions. There was also a question that always comes up for us, which is how to deliver solutions to patients that are safe for them. We could not take shortcuts and look for solutions. On the other hand, there were challenges due to the fact that many ongoing clinical trials were stopped because patients could not turn up at hospitals and could not take part in trials”, said the CEO of AstraZeneca Pharma Poland. – “It certainly taught us to be much more flexible in our response. But also thinking about how to make ourselves resilient and how to support the organisation of health systems to be resilient to shocks. It is also a lesson that no one alone can cope with such a sudden change as a pandemic. We, too, need to work with the health system so that when the shock happens, it affects patients as little as possible. An ad hoc event has resulted in much more systemic thinking”, emphasised Wiktor Janicki. – “Never has the AstraZeneca brand been as well-known as it was after the pandemic. But in financial terms it was not a positive outcome for us, our Covid-19 vaccine was made available at cost”.

The question of synergy

One of the major issues raised during the debate was the question of cooperation between different actors, including in the health sphere, and whether the pandemic has changed the situation in terms of cooperation between the state and corporations.

– “I don't think there’s ever been that sense that we’re on the sidelines. Because we are a heavily regulated industry, but also heavily reliant on funds from reimbursement, we have always been in constant contact. I think the optics have changed – from being a kind of customer to being a partner, looking shoulder to shoulder for new solutions. I also do not feel that the pandemic has increased the level of state interventionism, as far as the realities of pharmaceutical companies are concerned. The pandemic has made both sides realise how dependent we are on each other”, argued Wiktor Janicki. – It showed that it is all an interconnected system of vessels. And you can see it a bit on the employer-employee level too: that face-to-face contact is needed, otherwise the quality of work will drop. What the pandemic taught me is that such lessons should not be ignored. And it is important to reflect on what lessons we can learn for the future”, he stressed.

What about synergies between the different actors? – “It was difficult to prepare for a ‘project’ such as the pandemic. We theorised it, we reckoned with this risk. But there was no dress rehearsal at the facility, system level”, noted Dr Małgorzata Gałązka-Sobotka, dean of the Centre for Postgraduate Education and director of the Institute of Healthcare Management at Łazarski University.

– “Many things were happening ‘live’. They were an attempt to find solutions that would give the best result in a changing situation. What is the balance? If we look at the continuity of the state and certain processes, they have been preserved”, assessed Dr Gałązka-Sobotka. – “The digitalisation seems to have been the most solid element. This was precisely the greatest positive achievement of this difficult time. Digitisation in healthcare has reached its peak. The natural resistance of users has been broken. This has ensured that we enter this calmer time equipped with tools that can significantly accelerate other changes in health care, primarily at the primary care level. The pandemic has made us realise that this sphere needs to be rebuilt”, stressed Małgorzata Gałązka-Sobotka.

Time of trials

The debate also addressed the impact of the pandemic on national politics. – “I feel that the pandemic has neither devastated nor straightened out the political scene. Indeed, it was a very difficult time. I say this from the perspective of a member of Sejm in her first term of office”, said Paulina Matysiak of the Razem Party. – “The pandemic came as a surprise to everyone. Except perhaps for those who have actually been “dealing” with this subject. I think for me, for the politicians, it was a surprise. A certain ‘verification’. It was a time of trial to ensure the safety of fellow citizens”, she added.

– The shortcomings highlighted by the pandemic were indeed many. This is, for example, a housing issue. The pandemic has shown that many of our dwellings are just places to sleep, not to live. When you’ve been cooped up in a house for a month without access to a park or even your own balcony, it’s hard to talk about good quality housing. There is also the issue of the rights of employees who worked on contracts for work and commissions. We as Razem Party had many signals at the beginning of the pandemic from people who lost their livelihoods overnight. A whole service industry, especially catering, was suddenly closed”, said Paulina Matysiak.

Participants in the debate also discussed whether the pandemic has made a difference in terms of state involvement in public life and pushing the boundaries of state intervention.

– “The boundary of what is possible as an intervention has shifted. Partial monetisation of public debt – when everyone does it, is acceptable. Debt ceases to be a problem. There have been many voices of economists supporting MMT (Modern Monetary Theory), i.e. the theory that the state can go into debt as long as it is its own money issuer. Very many of these voices then entered the mainstream. Many of the state interventions that have taken place have been close to what economists on the extreme left have advocated. Today, this boundary remains displaced. The pandemic crisis was over, countries intervened as best they could”, pointed out Piotr Arak. – “Shifting boundaries is quite dangerous. Not all countries have the same fiscal capacity when it comes to state aid. By having the state aid debate in the EU, we have a huge risk of distorting the single market.

Positive effects

Did the pandemic have any positive effects? The panellists highlighted the unexpected effects it has had – especially when it comes to the sphere of widely understood production. There has been a shift in the optics of thinking here.

– “It is very important to pay attention to supply chains. Globalisation, the elongation of the value of supply chains are very risky, said Dr Agnieszka Sznyk, president of INNOWO, the Institute for Innovation and Responsible Development. – “We at INNOWO are concerned with sustainability, the circular economy, that is, precisely an economy that cares about resources. Here, production, local and regional consumption is essential”, said President Sznyk.

She also highlighted a change in thinking. – “It is a good thing that both corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises have started to think about how to produce locally. The second aspect is innovation, optimisation and changing the model – to a leasing, subscription model”, pointed out Agnieszka Sznyk.

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materiały prasowe

The pandemic has been one of the most important challenges that the world has faced in recent years. It has had an impact on all areas of people’s lives. The future of the world after the pandemic was the subject of a debate held in the “Rzeczpospolita” Lounge during the Economic Forum in Karpacz. The discussion covered different areas of life and the challenges of the world after the coronavirus. Boguslaw Chrabota, editor-in-chief of Rzeczpospolita, who moderated the discussion, began by recalling a thesis from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s famous book on “black swans” that change reality. – “Covid-19 was the best example of such a swan in Taleb’s sense”, said Boguslaw Chrabota.

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