Is it time for radical change?by Amjad Atallah
A letter from Doha Debates’ managing director Amjad Atallah
We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Seven months in, nearly all of us know someone who has been ill or has died from COVID-19, or from the collapse of health care systems resulting from the pandemic. Many millions more have been affected economically, watching their wages or job prospects dry up as many sectors of the global capitalist economy churn to a halt. None of us are unaffected.
More than anything, the pandemic has amplified every inequality in every country. The marginalized and economically disadvantaged continue to suffer the most, like refugee camps that don’t have the resources to fight the coronavirus. But even the richest countries in the world are seeing their inequalities exposed, with the U.S. surging ahead in both unemployment and illness. And racial injustice has become even more visible, thanks in part to worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, to an increasingly horrified global population.
Millennials had already taken the brunt of the hit from the Great Recession of 2007 and 2008, and with the oldest of Gen Z turning 23 this year, they have been hit particularly hard already by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. A Pew Research Center survey reports that a staggering half of 18- to 23-year-olds, far more than any other group, say that they or somebody in their households have already been economically impacted by the pandemic. This second round of economic devastation, this time a result of inadequate planning and safety nets, leaves young people reeling once again.
So, what’s next?
At Doha Debates, we have never been content to highlight the problems and walk away. Our goal has always been to highlight the people — especially young people and their ideas — who clearly see the problems and also propose innovative, sometimes radical, change to meet the historic moment we are in.
Our next debate takes on a provocative and timely issue: In light of the global disasters we are facing, what is the most compassionate and just economic model we can create for our societies? On a personal level, what kind of system would best help you and the people that you care about right now?
For almost every country on Earth, the pandemic has ushered in a form of emergency socialism. Large stimulus packages, different forms of universal basic income (UBI), proposals for student debt relief, support for salaries, corporate subsidies, state assistance to health care institutions and other forms of state assistance and redistribution have been adopted everywhere. Consider these examples in erstwhile capitalist systems:
- Employment subsidy programs cover 45 million jobs, or a third of the workforce, in Germany, France, Britain and Spain.
- Denmark, Netherlands and South Korea’s employee-retention programs are covering 75% to 90% of salaries to fend off layoffs.
- In the U.S., the federal government established a $670 billion business loan program for small businesses, self-employed workers, nonprofits and tribal governments to keep businesses going.
Measures such as a temporary UBI have been implemented worldwide. Some countries, such as Spain, are debating whether to keep it permanently. The coronavirus crisis is a vivid reminder that the state is perfectly capable of sheltering its constituents from the market’s mercilessness; the question has only ever been whose risks it wishes to socialize.
Taking on this issue are three great speakers from three different parts of the world. Fatima Bhutto is a Pakistani author and activist who has exhibited in her life a desperate concern for people and animals, and who will argue on behalf of radically reimagining our current system. Tabata Amaral is a Brazilian congresswoman who will argue that we need to move past the labels of socialism and capitalism and embrace an evidence-based approach to creating new systems. Lord William Hague, a former speaker of the House of Commons in England, will argue that entrepreneurship and innovation must drive our future.
As always, our incisive and insightful moderator, Ghida Fakhry, will get the most out of the participants. Our digital correspondent, Nelufar Hedayat, and our connector, Dr. Govinda Clayton, will also be on hand as always to bring your questions into the mix and to help focus the speakers on solutions.
Our live show is normally hosted in our fantastic Doha studio with a live student audience and with our speakers coming in from all over the world. In light of the pandemic, we are trying something different, and will be airing a live show with a virtual studio and a live student audience from around the world, including from the universities located in Education City in Doha. Our student audience will form our judging panel. This will be different from your typical virtual conference, and we hope you find it entertaining and engaging.
The “you” in this is actually the most important piece. We want to highlight your ideas, your questions, your solutions. Our debates launch our topic discussions. They continue in our podcast, our films, our #SolvingIt series, and our #DearWorldLive conversations. You can be part of it all.
Join us on July 20 at 5 p.m.. Doha / 10 a.m. ET, and follow us on social media @DohaDebates to see what’s new from your friends and your compatriots around the world who are all working to create a better future for us all.
And let me know what you think about the debate topic and our virtual show format. We are always listening, and we are always looking to give your ideas a global platform.