Global Head, Citi Private Bank
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Governments around the world are now showing clear intent to fight COVID-19 and its consequences. In doing so, they are heeding the lessons of crises past.
The statement of intent could not be any clearer: the world is going to do whatever it takes to overcome COVID-19 and its wider impacts. Over the last week, a succession of countries has announced unprecedented measures to fight the worst global pandemic in over a century. Social distancing has become even more stringent, including the start of a three-week lockdown of India’s 1.3 billion people. Vast increases in virus testing, the diversion of manufacturing production to ventilators and masks, and the mass mobilization of professionals and volunteers are just a few of the latest initiatives. More will almost certainly still be required. However, there seems little doubt that more will be forthcoming. Whatever it takes, indeed.
For now, the scale of the health challenge continues to mount. Recent days have seen rapid growth in infections in the US and Europe in particular. Keeping up with the relentless news headlines and social media chatter concerning the virus is itself challenging, often inducing fear and anxiety. Our advice to you is to cut through the noise and to focus instead upon hard facts and expert opinion.
The world’s determination to do whatever it takes in relation to COVID-19’s economic fallout is also increasingly clear. Again, the scale of the challenge is daunting. This week, a record 3.3m people in the US alone filed new unemployment claims. Our thoughts are with all of those facing such uncertainty right now. David Bailin and Steven Wieting have set out some of the priorities for combatting the economic and financial shock in Catching the COVID-19 Knife: What It Will Take. Crucially, they believe that governments are heeding a key lesson of crises past: the more that is spent to counteract the downturn today, the less that is required later on.
The US House of Representatives last week passed a $2 trillion stimulus proposal, the largest emergency package in US history. The OECD’s Secretary-General spoke this week of the need for ‘a modern, global effort akin to the last century’s Marshall Plan and New Deal – combined.’ David and Steven discuss more about the necessary components of such initiatives in We Answer More of Your Great Questions, and The (Underestimated) Power of Panic.
The past week has again proved to be hugely testing for our governments, our society, and each of us as individuals. However, the collective response gives grounds for cautious optimism. Likewise, I am hugely grateful to you, our clients, for all the many interactions we have had with you in recent days. I have been especially inspired by hearing about some of your efforts to help your employees and communities cope with the effects of COVID-19. We share your values and the Citi Foundation is pleased to be donating $15 million to relief efforts globally.
Please continue keeping yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy.