In the COVID-19 pandemic, “we’re crucifying Christ again due to post-liberalism and the destruction of the public health system”, a French Jesuit economist has decried.
– “God is dying in our hospitals”
“God is dying in our hospitals. He who dies today is God”, Gaël Giraud SJ, director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), denounced April 21 to Spanish paper El Confidencial.
“The same happened in concentration camps during World War II”, the former economist-in-chief of the French Development Agency (AFD) continued.
“Elie Wiesel told the story of a boy inside the concentration camp that the Germans killed and a man asked, ‘But where is God?’ And Elie Wiesel replied, ‘God is dying, God is that boy'”.
– Globalisation yes, but “with resilience enough to face a pandemic”
Explaining the causes of COVID-19, Giraud insisted that “globalisation is not responsible for the pandemic, but it is responsible that for the first time a global pandemic has taken hold in three months”.
“Globalisation is also responsible for the fragility of the production system”, the Jesuit continued.
He alerted that “if there’s a Chinese company that can’t work because of the virus, this has worldwide consequences”, and proposed that the task of economic and social reconstruction after the pandemic must involve rebuilding a model of globalisation “with resilience enough to face a pandemic”.
– The free market, “a total failure”
Asked as to what that reconstruction might look like concretely, at least in Europe, Giraud said “Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and France especially were de-industrialised in the past and this is a scam. The ‘south’ of Europe must be reindustrialised”.
“We need intelligent protectionism to start an industrial reconstruction in Europe, an ecological reconstruction. The industrial revolution of the 19th century was done with protectionism”, the Jesuit recalled.
To the question of whether protectionism would lead to an exacerbation of nationalism, Giraud replied those concepts “are two different things. Protectionism refers to the flow of goods and services and the flow of capital, not the exchange of ideas and people”.
“The ideology of the free market is something that we must reflect on because it’s been shown to be a total failure”, he added.
– “Not the banks that must be saved as a priority, but rather households and businesses”
The Jesuit insisted that “the different rescue plans of the European Commission and the European Central Bank are either too weak or are reserved for banks”.
“However, today it is not the banks that must be saved as a priority, but rather households and businesses”, he said.
“If the EU is not able to show a bit of solidarity in this tragedy with the issuing of ‘coronabonds’ or the injection of monetary liquidity directly by the ECB in the real economy, not in the form of debt… what is the European Union for?”, Giraud asked.
“The reason health systems in Italy, Spain or France are so weak is because of the fiscal austerity that we have foolishly implemented since 2008”, the year of the beginning of the global financial crisis, he denounced.
– Either “intelligent protectionism” or “a terrible economic depression for all of Europe for the next ten years”
Returning to the question of protectionism in Europe, Giraud proposed “a carbon tariff to fight dumping from countries that don’t respect the 2015 Paris Agreement” on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, along with “a tax against social dumping, a tax against products that come from deforestation and destruction of biodiversity”.
“This is smart protectionism”, the economist explained, warning that “either we implement intelligent protectionism or the alternative is a terrible economic depression for all of Europe for the next ten years”.
“We need a Marshall Plan to rebuild a green European economy. That’s is the only way… to regain economic sovereignty, become more resilient in the face of future ecological shocks, to create jobs and to progress towards a more humane European society”.
– “Post-liberalism will end in dictatorship”
Outside Europe and more generally, Giraud denounced that privatisation “is the agenda of contemporary post-liberalism, which some people mistakenly call ‘neoliberalism’, even though it has broken with classical liberalism”.
“Post-liberalism seeks to subject the law to the logic of private property”, he explained, warning that “contemporary post-liberalism will end in a dictatorship because it is incompatible with law and democracy”.
“In order to sustain a society, it’s not necessary to extend working hours, destroy labour laws, plunge millions of people into unemployment and destroy the planet”, Giraud continued.
“We have to redistribute wealth in a much more egalitarian way and turn to agroecology, a green industry [and] the circular economy.
“Climatologists are clear: if we don’t stop global warming, Spain will be uninhabitable before the end of the century, like Italy and part of France”, the Jesuit economist alerted.
– Pope Francis has stepped into world leadership vacuum
One final point Giraud addressed was the vacuum of political leadership on the world stage in the time of COVID-19, thanks to the incompetence of the US under Donald Trump, “which has completely lost international leadership with this pandemic”, the “unbelievable deception” of the United Kingdom and also, the “enormous lack of solidarity” of the EU.
In the context of this leadership void, Pope Francis is the only head of state with a political vision against the pandemic, Giraud affirmed.
Francis “established isolation in the Vatican very quickly and had a vision of solidarity with the poorest”, the Jesuit continued.
“In the US, they put infected homeless people on the ground of a parking lot because they didn’t want to give them a hotel room; that’s indecent”, Giraud complained, recalling that in his Mass in the Casa Santa Marta April 2 Pope Francis denounced that heart-wrenching reality.