COVID-19 has highlighted government’s inability to plan for severe, but plausible scenarios that pose a significant and long-lasting threat to both national and international populations. In this case, the scenario is a global pandemic that has swept the world and taken every nation it has arrived at by surprise.
This scenario is, by many people’s reckoning, one which could never have been planned for. This is something that I disagree with, and I would point towards failures in the way that government and politics work across the globe in order to demonstrate why they weren’t planning for such eventualities.
The way that politics is structured means that the incumbent government is inherently focused on short-termism; enacting policies that have implications for the coming months and years is what ultimately secures any politician’s central aim of immediate re-election. (This is of course not a new observation.) However, to deal with the big issues in society, you have to look beyond the short term and begin to address topics that have implications far beyond the next 5 years, and even beyond the lifetimes of current voters. It is when politicians address these issues that they are at their best.
Another reason that governments failed to plan and prepare for such a disaster scenario as COVID-19 is budgetary constraints. In a world where we are concerned with deficit spending and tax rises, politicians and civil servants are invariably told to do more while being given less. In order to address long-term systemic disaster scenarios, individuals need to be told to explore more and worry less about funding.
The key challenge, therefore, that has been highlighted by COVID-19 is the inability of government, in its current structures, to plan for and mitigate against severe, but plausible disaster scenarios.