America would have saved trillions had it handled the pandemic as well as Pakistan: US economist

Published October 18, 2020
Former US treasury secretary and leading economist Lawrence 'Larry' Summers. — AP/File
Former US treasury secretary and leading economist Lawrence 'Larry' Summers. — AP/File

Former US treasury secretary and renowned economist Lawrence 'Larry' Summers is of the opinion that had America handled the coronavirus pandemic as well as Pakistan, it could have saved in trillions of dollars.

He made these comments while talking to CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. "America’s failure on Covid-19 is almost unimaginable," he said. "Heck, if the US had handled the pandemic as well as Pakistan, we would have saved in neighbourhood of $10 trillion."

"The costs of an expanded testing system are trivial compared to the costs of tens of thousands of early deaths. Expanding testing should be a matter of utmost urgency," tweeted Summers.

US President Donald Trump, despite contracting the virus himself, has continued to cast doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic even as the US death toll topped 200,000. In what has become an overtly political gesture, Trump almost never wears a mask in public.

According to the Associated Press, quoting a new poll, more Americans blame the US government instead of foreign nations for the coronavirus crisis in the United States, a rebuke to the Trump administration’s contention that China or other countries are most at fault.

As he faces a rough reelection contest in November, Trump has steadily ramped up criticism of China for the virus and announced the US would halt funding for and withdraw from the international health agency over alleged Chinese interference in its work. Critics, including public health experts, have said China bears some responsibility but have also harshly criticised Trump’s response.

Summers on Sunday piled on criticism of the US government's response, saying: "Interest rates are essentially zero, telling us that the funds are available and won’t crowd out anything important. Instead it will push economy forward. All the dangers are on spending too little, not too much."

"We should be making investments in renewing infrastructure, supporting state and local govt, and helping the unemployed and lower income families. It cannot be that the highest priority in the US today is lending money to credit worthy corporations," Summers tweeted.

Last month, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had praised Pakistan's response to the coronavirus, saying the country managed to fight the pandemic while allowing its economy to pick up as the country stabilises.

In an op-ed in the British online newspaper The Independent, Tedros noted that Pakistan had deployed the infrastructure built over many years for polio to combat Covid-19.

"Community health workers who have been trained to go door-to-door vaccinating children against polio have been redeployed and utilised for surveillance, contact tracing and care," he wrote.

Pakistan's response reinforces "the lesson that the choice is not between controlling the virus or saving the economy; the two go hand-in-hand", the WHO chief has added.

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