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Dec 30, 2020
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COVID Exam Policy. How is the test of power by the coronavirus

One of the central topics of the world discussion is how the coronavirus epidemic will affect the economy, politics, public relations and the global balance of power.

Some say that global changes await the world. That, faced with a dramatic challenge, the world powers will recognize the negative consequences of rivalry and disunity, reach out to each other and usher in a new era of cooperation. Others believe that once the epidemic subsides, things will return to normal. Cynics are sure: politicians will shake themselves like a hen after meeting a cheeky rooster and start clucking in the old way.

What do the pragmatists say?

The pragmatists say this: yes, some adjustments in domestic and foreign policy will take place, but the global trends established in the twentieth century will continue. The world will continue to be ruled by money, global corporations, economic selfishness and the political ambitions of individual countries and leaders. There are already some changes, but they are either forced or (in a number of countries) populist in nature with an eye to the next elections. In a number of countries, budgets were changed in favor of health workers. Many have redistributed budgets to help small and medium-sized businesses. In ordinary times, this business, due to its mobility, business acumen and hard work, gets out on its own. But with the scale of the coronavirus strike on the wallets of citizens and in connection with the quarantine measures, he was among the most affected and needs help. At the political stake is the problem of mass unemployment and, consequently, social stability. In the media, such measures are called “rescue packages”. The European Union has accepted an impressive package of saving the economy. And here Germany stands out predictably. Government A. Merkel took measures on credit guarantees for businesses worth 400 billion euros. The overall rescue package in Germany will amount to 1.3 trillion euros, or 20% of GDP. In Japan, a little less – 1 trillion dollars. In the countries of the “second economic echelon” – Italy and Spain – the packages are more modest: 455 and 200 billion euros, respectively.

The approach of the USA is peculiar. The traditional principle “business will save itself” continues to work there. And the $ 2 trillion rescue package was called “helicopter money”: the government does not help corporations, but distributes dollars to citizens – as if dropping money from a helicopter. The main goal is to encourage them not to tighten their belts, but to spend more. Government Execution Rescue Package Exchange consists of 5 main points: direct assistance (distribution) to the poor, payments for children, unemployment benefits, soft loans to small and medium-sized businesses to pay salaries and rent. This will affect half of the population. So far, 158 billion have been dropped from Trump’s “helicopter”. Government Bidenis likely to continue this practice.

Who how can

In Russia, the rescue package is very modest (65 billion euros) and is not due to the greed of power, but to the limited scale of the economy. The government is wary of scattering accumulated reserves in the form of the National Welfare Fund in the form of “helicopter money”, saving money in case of a protracted crisis. There is also such a factor that helps the government as the traditionally high reserve of patience of the population in Russia. Unlike European countries, where dissatisfaction with the authorities immediately spills out onto the street, in our country it is limited to grumbling in the kitchen, increasing drunkenness or domestic violence. At the same time, judging by the latest polls, anxiety is growing among people. In 2020, according to the Public Opinion Foundation, anxious sentiments gripped 62% of the population against 51% in 2019.

However, visible protest moods are not growing. The assessments of the work of the president and the government have not actually changed. People take out the accumulated irritation on officials: 74% have a negative attitude to the bureaucratic world of Russia, and only 14% positively.

All this makes it possible for the authorities to virtually keep both the political system and the system of relations with the people unchanged. For many years now, it has been regulating its relations with society not through dialogue with a reformist-minded part of society, but by increasingly assertive methods of propaganda. And from time to time – with low-cost populist measures.

So, as a concession to the popular demand to abandon the flat scale of taxation and introduce a progressive tax for wealthy citizens, it was increased by 2% – from 13 to 15%. In European countries, the so-called flat tax rate does not exist at all. There is a progressive income tax that goes up to 40% or more. Tax revenues go to the social needs of the population.

In Russia, the proposed tax innovations were perceived by the population without any interest and went almost unnoticed. And the authorities themselves, apparently realizing the craftiness of their addition to the “salvation package”, did not ring the ringing bells too much.

Screwing nuts

The peculiarity of the fight against coronavirus in a number of countries is that the authorities, shouting “horror, horror!” and frightening the population with “inevitable troubles”, in fact, they use COVID-19 as an opportunity to blame it on the failures of their own policies, corruption, embezzlement of the budget and inability to solve social problems. In Poland, for example, COVID-19 served as a pretext for tightening the screws and limiting democratic freedoms. In France, the president Macron tried to use the tense situation to enact legislative measures to protect the police from public control. But only provoked people to acts of violence in the streets.

* * *

For political scientists, COVID-19 turned out to be a good reason to compare the ability to resist natural challenges of different types of political systems. Comparing the successes and failures of the fight against coronavirus in different countries, we have to unfortunately admit that in emergency situations, authoritarian models (such as the Chinese, Iranian, Turkish) are able to control the situation more effectively through tough and quickly introduced restrictive measures. And countries with a democratic system (USA, Spain, France, Italy, etc.), where the population is accustomed to all sorts of liberties in public and private behavior, suffered more from the COVID-19 invasion.

According to international experts, Russia is showing good results. The number of cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 inhabitants in our country is 17 people. For comparison: in the USA – 46, in Belgium – 51, in Spain and France – 35, in the UK and Italy – 27. In addition, Russia is one of the few countries that quickly found its own and very effective vaccine. So the question arises: what countries are we among in terms of political structure, level of development and democracy? Closer to Europe or closer to Turkey and Egypt? This is not an easy question. Share your opinion with AIF.

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the editorial board

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