The world faces the risk of another lost generation as economic distress and social discontent will rise over the next 18 months unless world leaders, businesses and policy-makers work together to manage the fallout of the pandemic, World Economic Forum warned on Tuesday.
However, "as economies restart, there is an opportunity to embed greater societal equality and sustainability into the recovery, which would unleash a new era of prosperity," WEF said based on the findings of a report.
Saadia Zahidi, managing director, WEF, said the crisis has devastated lives and livelihoods. "It has triggered an economic crisis with far-reaching implications and revealed the inadequacies of the past. We now have a unique opportunity to use this crisis to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive."
"As we reboot our economies, changes in working practices and in attitudes towards travelling, commuting and consumption all point to new ways to achieve a lower-carbon and more sustainable future. The pandemic will have long-lasting effects, as high unemployment affects consumer confidence, inequality and well-being, and challenges the efficacy of social protection systems," said Peter Giger, group chief risk officer, Zurich Insurance Group.
With significant pressures on employment and education - over 1.6 billion students have missed out on schooling during the pandemic. "We are facing the risk of another lost generation. Decisions taken now will determine how these risks or opportunities play out," said Giger.
John Doyle, president and CEO, Marsh, said to create the conditions for a speedier recovery and a more resilient future, governments and the private sector need to work together more effectively. "Along with major investments to improve health systems, infrastructure, and technology, one of the outcomes of this crisis has to be that societies become more resilient and capable of withstanding future pandemics and other major shocks."
The Economist Intelligence Unit, meanwhile. said Covid-19 brought an abrupt halt to months of mass anti-government protests in the Middle East and North Africa, but this is more likely to be a short-lived hiatus rather than a long-lasting reduction in social tension.
"The underlying factors that drove anti-government sentiment in 2019 and early 2020 remain at large and social tensions are already bubbling back to the surface as pandemic conditions ease, restrictions are lifted and the economic fall-out becomes apparent," said EIU. "If anything, Covid-19 will act as a conflict multiplier in the region pitching citizens against governments and fanning the flames of regional rivalry."
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