POST-COVID-19 ECONOMIES

Telemedicine and e-commerce will be the two greatest victors of the post-COVID-19 global economy, though regional tourism and artisanal products will also benefit from the coming provincialization of the global economy.

Francesca Valagussa, 40, practices yoga with an online course, in Rome, Italy. REUTERS/Yara Nardi


Not long after the 1918 “Spanish Flu," mainstay of the economy such as manufacturing and transport recovered and the world returned to its frenzied pace by 1920-21.

Will the post-COVID-19 globe recuperate in the same way?

Well, because the world is infinitely more interconnected than it was a century ago, countless companies, organizations, products, and even personal relationships rely on intricate international networks of sourcing, supply-chains, hiring, and travel.

In a world made provincial for anywhere between 6-18 months, if not more, many of these will collapse. And those who survive will be far more wary of overstretching themselves.

Other sectors, of course, will thrive in the current crisis, starting with those that meet our most basic needs. Milk, flour, sugar, salt, vegetables, bread, coffee, chocolate, paracetamol, as well as other basic pharmaceutical goods will take precedence, perhaps followed closely by puzzles, Netflix, mail-order burritos, and divorce and bankruptcy lawyers. Cookbooks will also take off, in addition to whichever grocery stores can optimize their food delivery services.

But with retail already a dying sector, in wealthy economies it will largely find itself replaced by e-commerce. Though many before COVID-19 were uncomfortable getting more than socks and shoes online, that too will change. After 3-6 months of living life through a portal, many will not hesitate to continue ordering clothing and apparel, household appliances, and even groceries online.

At the national level, ensuring access to broadband must become a priority. Though Zoom is over-hyped and cannot replace the social aspect of education, it will help companies, universities, and organizations the world over trim costs. Apart from increased telecommuting, the industry most likely to see a boost from COVID-19 is telemedicine.

A large percentage of routine medical interactions could soon move largely online, as people grow increasingly wary of visiting congested places such as the hospital or doctor's office. This includes medication refills and check-ups and diagnoses for colds and rashes, urinary tract infections, birth control and fertility, and mental health.

This last sector will be particularly crucial. With insurance companies in many US states now required to insure online mental health consultations, this market could see the single largest increase. With reduced overhead costs, the cost of consultations should also go down.

Regional tourism will also increase, and local and regional brands will also fare better as global supply-chains contract, giving local producers who can respond the quickest to increases in post-COVID 19 demand the greatest advantage.

Finally, the nature of transactions themselves will change. Though the use of cash has been long on the defensive, COVID-19 will come that much closer to giving it a final push. As people not only flock to cashless online purchases for everything from meatballs to mental health, they will also increasingly balk at handling used notes that have passed through hundreds of other possibly infected hands. Fintech will likely see its star rise.

No matter how bad the coming contraction, the world's 7.8 billion people still need to eat, drink, and, where possible, be merry. Though their recreational habits will be curbed, those who offer the most affordable and sustainable options will fare the best.

And while many forms of conspicuous consumption take a temporary backseat, this needn't be such a bad thing.