Ethiopian Troops In Tigray Capital In the case of Australia, it involved a six-months long economic ‘Marshall plan’ that infused resources to the tune of 2 % of the country’s GDP, or over 300 billion dollars. This allowed, among others, direct and regular cash transfer to households whose employment can’t guarantee such payments and payments to businesses to keep their viability during and beyond the lockdown. It also offered free childcare services to families, particularly those frontline workers so that they can continue to do their jobs focused and undeterred by family responsibilities.
The amount of investment is huge by any standards and no doubt may tighten up the government’s fiscal space in the years ahead, but it relieved the economic burden from households and small business that would have been severely affected by the complete shutdown required to arrest the virus. It also afforded the country the opportunity to follow ‘science’ without the social and economic pressures that may have forced other nations to open their economy up sooner than the optimum duration required to subdue the virus.
The success stories of countries like Australia and New Zealand, therefore, boils down to a couple of factors: economic ‘resilience’ and the ability to effectively enforce physical distancing rules, facilitated through a combination of soft hand interventions, inclusive governance and the social capital these nations built over the years. Both countries also have no land border, which means that local infections can easily be traced, detected and dealt with accordingly. On the other hand, emerging evidence from China, Singapore and Korea, countries that had also managed to keep the virus at bay, suggests that a second wave is a real possibility.
The considerations for next step for Ethiopia, therefore, need to pay attention to these experiences, and its own unique character. Specifically, the fact that it is a country of many borders, most of which are fluid with no effective mechanism of control over them; that it has either an empty pocket or that the purse is not deep enough to shoulder the economic costs of a complete and extended lockdown needed to bring cases to zero. And, a ‘zero case scenario’, though ideal, may be a long-term goal, may come only with the availability and full access to a vaccine or drug that is yet to be discovered.