Thursday, August 13, 2009

Swine flu and the economy

An article from the Times of India:

MUMBAI: Maharashtra's economy, which only recently started emerging from the shadow of the global meltdown, has been delivered a double whammy with the spread of swine flu and what officials are calling the worst-ever drought to have hit more than two dozen districts.
How is swine flu affecting the economy in India?

While educational institutes and theatres and multiplexes have been closed in the Mumbai-Pune belt, authorities in other districts, too, are facing pressure to shut down all institutions in a pre-emptive attempt to check the spread of the virus.

"The closure in Mumbai and other districts will definitely have an adverse impact on the economy. Major and minor transactions in the entire region have almost stopped. In fact, after the closure of schools was declared, there was sudden drop in attendance in government and private offices too. The epidemic has had a cascading effect on the entire state,'' the NCP minister said.
The so-called "swine flu" took an interesting route through the media. There was a lot of hype and panic over it in the media when it first emerged. However, the American media has a 2-second attention span so the story disappeared as quickly as it emerged. However, in the period after it disappeared from the national media, or was at least moved from the front page, swine flu has emerged as an actual health threat. As of today, Wikipedia is citing some 2,000+ global deaths and 200,000+ laboratory confirmed cases. That's laboratory confirmed. The real number is likely higher.

As the above article states, the response in India has been to shut down schools and other public institutions. Some places of commerce have also been shut down to inhibit transmission of the disease. Of course, when news like this is made public it makes people less inclined to patronize the commercial establishments that actually are open.

Of course, some of you will also know that the Mexican tourist economy was devastated by the swine flu pandemic.

Will the US face something like this? Of course no one really knows, yet. It certainly is possible. A casual Googling reveals that many American schools certainly are preparing for the possible emergence of cases of swine flu amongst their student body when the school year begins. The United States already leads the tally in terms of numbers of confirmed deaths from the disease. If school closures do happen in the U.S., it will be interesting to note what kind of attention a story like that attracts from the national media. If it does get much play in the mainstream media, I would not be surprised to see a further hit to the retail and hospitality sectors of the economy as people stay home instead of vacationing or visiting shopping centers. This is something to watch for as the school year begins again in the next few months.

No comments:

Post a Comment