March 19th, 2020
The Government must takes rapid and concrete steps to stabilise the economy that puts protection of those hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19 front and centre, an ecological economics group has warned.
A key move that Feasta wants to see implemented urgently is the introduction of a universal basic income to improve financial security for everyone regardless of their employment status.
This, the groups says, would relieve some immediate financial pressure, and make it easier for people to adapt to enforced quarantine, keep children at home. It would also reduce pressure on sick workers to get back to work and risk spreading an infection.
The Government has already brought in support of two weeks of paid leave for medically-required self-isolation and support for the full duration of absence from work if an employee has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
An estimated 140,000 people has already lost their jobs as the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus impact takes hold on our Ireland, with the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty stating that that this number could raise to as high as 400,000 over the coming months.
Feasta warns that some forms of work decimated by this virus may no longer be viable even after the pandemic passes, with universal basic income offering more flexible long-term decision-making for households.
In this light, Feasta also wants to see bankruptcy law relaxed for the duration of the crisis alongside steps to simplify supply chains for essential goods to stabilise the economy.
According to Caroline Whyte, an ecological economist and researcher at Feasta, a radical reset of economy is needed to help flatten the coronavirus curve and prevent supply chains for essential goods from collapsing.
“The measures we’re advocating would not only relieve pressure on the unemployed, workers and their families in the short-term, they would also reduce the development encroachment and loss of biodiversity that are contributing to these pandemics,” she added.
Feasta is also calling for measures that it says could help to prevent such impact if a similar pandemic break out in future such as the diversification and localisation of agriculture.
Diversification from our near total focus on beef and dairy production would help minimise the risk of vital supply chains being disrupted owing to worker illness or the need to quarantine and would create employment to help offset the lay-offs triggered by the virus, the group said.
The risk of future pandemics would decline, Feasta argue, by a move away from industrialised agriculture that is believed to be a key factor triggering the emergence of new pandemics.
The group also called for a legal cap on production and import of fossil fuel to gradually phase out the industry over the next three decades. This, Feasta says, would provide clear guidance to investors who will need to re-think their plans after the severe shock the economy has received.