Pan­demic’s im­pact to in­flu­ence economy, so­cial or­der for long time, forum told

Medicine Hat News - - WEST - DAN HEAL­ING

The COVID-19 pan­demic is fun­da­men­tally chang­ing the way the world’s eco­nomic and so­cial or­ders func­tion and some of those ef­fects will be per­ma­nent, speak­ers at the Global Business Forum in

Banff said on Thurs­day.

In a se­ries of on­line ses­sions broad­cast to a ball­room at the Banff Springs Ho­tel with just three peo­ple per ta­ble to pre­vent spread of the dis­ease, sub­ject ex­perts from around the world said the virus has ac­cel­er­ated and am­pli­fied trends they were al­ready see­ing, as well as tak­ing a few sur­pris­ing turns.

The pan­demic has drawn at­ten­tion to food se­cu­rity and that stands to boost a tech­no­log­i­cal revo­lu­tion in agri­cul­ture in Canada, said Mu­rad Al-Katib, CEO of Saskatchew­an food pro­cess­ing gi­ant AGT Food and In­gre­di­ents Inc.

The ex­pan­sion of plant pro­tein crops such as peas, lentils, and other legumes in Prairie fields has boosted pro­duc­tiv­ity of the in­dus­try, and pro­cess­ing those crops into value-added prod­ucts will con­tinue to grow, he said, while call­ing on gov­ern­ment to help that process.

“Govern­ments are pay­ing at­ten­tion now. COVID has ev­ery­one spooked,” he said.

“COVID wasn’t a slap in the face, it was a punch in the nose for govern­ments to rec­og­nize that they can’t just leave food and food sys­tems en­tirely to frag­mented pri­vate sec­tor im­ports and dis­tri­bu­tion.”

South of the bor­der, mean­while, re­cent civil un­rest and vi­o­lence has been es­ca­lated by a pan­demic that has dis­pro­por­tion­ately hurt poorer fam­i­lies and Black peo­ple, while adding greatly to the for­tunes of the rich­est Amer­i­cans, said Trevor Noren, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of New York an­a­lyt­ics firm 13D.

He said COVID-19 is “gaso­line for a fire that had al­ready been lit” that could ac­cel­er­ate gen­er­a­tional change in ways that his­tor­i­cally have been caused by wars.

“We be­lieve COVID could prove to be that cat­a­lyst today, the event that forces a reck­on­ing with the in­ef­fi­cien­cies and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of ex­ces­sively con­cen­trated wealth and power,” he said.

“It will mean a back­lash against the three pri­mary forces that have driven con­sol­i­da­tion: glob­al­iza­tion, dig­i­ti­za­tion and fi­nan­cial­iza­tion.”

World oil de­mand has re­cov­ered to about 90 mil­lion bar­rels per day and that’s less than the 100 mil­lion bpd that ex­isted be­fore the COVID-19 slump, but it doesn’t mean the world has reached “peak oil,” said Michael Tran, man­ag­ing direc­tor and en­ergy strate­gist for RBC in New York.

“With COVID comes the idea of slower mo­bil­ity, the demise of travel, we’re all work­ing from home, this has re­ally al­tered how we think about oil de­mand, but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, acute events that im­pact oil de­mand have a shorter term im­pact than (gov­ern­ment) pol­icy shifts do,” he said.

He said events like the 9-11 at­tacks sharply af­fected oil de­mand, but it was short-term, while for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s fuel ef­fi­ciency stan­dards had a more last­ing af­fect.

De­mand in the de­vel­oped world peaked long ago, he added, but oil de­mand in the de­vel­op­ing world is ex­pected to con­tinue to grow.

Cross-bor­der trade be­tween Canada and the United States has re­mained strong de­spite re­stric­tions on in-per­son travel, said Kirsten Hill­man, Canada’s am­bas­sador to the U.S., adding she ex­pects the part­ners’ tra­di­tional ties to re­cover fully when those re­stric­tions are lifted.

She said the re­cent de­ci­sion by the U.S. to with­draw threat­ened tar­iffs on alu­minum shows that the new U.S.Canada-Mex­ico trade agree­ment is work­ing as a de­fence against pro­tec­tion­ism.

The pan­demic first erupted in China and that’s where it is ex­pected to be­gin to meet its end, said Jeong­min Seong, a part­ner with McKin­sey Global In­sti­tute in Shang­hai, in a pre­sen­ta­tion.

Deal­ing with the pan­demic forced the coun­try, al­ready an ear­lier adopter of dig­i­ti­za­tion, to take it in new di­rec­tions such as us­ing re­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion in health care, real es­tate and ed­u­ca­tion, and many of those ap­pli­ca­tions will con­tinue, he said.

He added Chi­nese business lead­ers have be­come more fo­cused on its do­mes­tic cus­tomers and less in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing mar­kets with the rest of the world, while Chi­nese con­sumers have be­come more fi­nan­cially pru­dent and more debt averse.

CP PHOTO JEFF MCIN­TOSH

At­ten­dees en­joy an out­door break at the Global Business Forum in Banff on Thurs­day.

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