Welcome to Coronavirus Government Global Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Seven options for funding COVID-related spending
In a new piece at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Arvind Ashta — a senior professor in the Burgundy School of Business, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté — has outlined seven possible options for funding government spending throughout Europe’s pandemic.
While hardly unique, definitive, or actively endorsed, these options provide a good framework for what most developed countries will have to consider, and challenges associated with each. Additionally, Ashta is writing from a European (and somewhat entrepreneurial) perspective; nevertheless, the options can easily be applied to an Australian context:
- Higher personal income tax, although Ashta notes that this should not apply to low-and-middle classes if we want increased spending to help the economy recover.
- Higher corporate taxes, especially in relation to businesses that have clearly benefitted from the pandemic, i.e., social media giants (which currently pay next to nothing in Australia anyway), medical companies, even investment firms.
- Indirect taxes, for example by taxing the difference between retail prices and crude oil prices.
- Bailing out struggling firms: in a 2 April statement, the EU considers recapitalisation, where governments invest in companies and later exit; “the inconvenience is that the burden of the difference between entering price and exiting price is often left for the taxpayers of the future.”
- Taking on debt, where Ashta looks “aghast” at Italy and Greece, countries that have been ravaged by forced austerity conditions (see, for example, Greece’s firefighting budget during the 2018 fires).
- Charity: as Ashta notes, “if rich individuals can finance the reconstruction of Notre Dame, they could surely come forth to pay for the suffering of the millions affected by COVID-19”. This is further complicated by examples of logistically and politically murky gifts from rich individuals — i.e., Elon Musk’s non-invasive ventilators, Bill Gates’ involvement in reforming New York’s educational sector — as well a foreign relation issues with richer EU members, America, and China.
- Taxing financial markets, the final option and, citing the proposal of the worldwide Tobin tax , the one Ashta comes closest to endorsing:
“The problem with such a tax is financial capital would flee the country that imposes it. However, it can work if the whole world were to impose it. So, we need a world federation with taxing powers, and which distributes the proceeds of the tax in a manner that is economically and socially healthy.”
Geopolitics wrap: COVID vs China’s BRI, how data sequencing is being used to prevent second waves, and returning to work in the US
- Observer Research Foundation fellow Ritika Passi argues that the pandemic, in accelerating “de-globalisation, power competition, and political warfare,” has created two crises for China’s Belt and Road Initiative:
- A crisis of credibility, specifically through China’s dominance and control of supply chains and its position as the world’s largest official creditor; and
- A crisis of viability, in that even Chinese officials have privately acknowledged BRI as a loss-making enterprise.
- As countries begin to ease lockdowns, a new Nature article explores how scientists in New Zealand, the UK and other countries are using genome sequencing — initially used to track the origin of community transmission — to rapidly respond to potential second waves.
- Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who has also proposed a quarantine-free Israel-Australia travel bubble — has warned that a second wave of outbreaks would create a “public outcry calling for the use of broader digital tracing”.
- Elsewhere at the WEF, VP of AWS Amazon Machine Learning, Swami Sivasubramanian, has explored how AI and machine learning are helping a range of sectors — including communication, research, healthcare and agriculture — to respond to COVID-19.
- This provides something of a contrast to MIT Technology Review’s piece on how the pandemic, by messing with humour behaviour, has in turn messed with AI.
- Finally, in an op-ed at the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marc Larochelle of Boston Medical Center has grappled with risk stratification for US workers during the pandemic. In the face of state governments calling for reopening without real attention to vulnerable work places and workers, Larochelle proposes a graded scale (below) taking both factors into consideration.
New Zealand outlines first major cultural recovery initiatives
Yesterday, the New Zealand government announced the first in a series of cultural funding announcements under their 2020-21 recovery budget.
Arts and Culture
Creative New Zealand will receive $25 million to support the creative sector through its Emergency Response Package. This includes $16 million to ensure the retention of critical arts infrastructure, keeping arts institutions open and able to retain staff.
Royal New Zealand Ballet receives $2 million to help them recover from COVID-19 restrictions.
A $2 million Museum Hardship Fund, administered by Te Papa, will go towards protecting jobs, caring for heritage collections, providing public access to these collections, and keeping museums operating. Funding will be allocated in July 2020, so there will be more information to come.
Heritage EQUIP grants, designed to support seismic strengthening of heritage buildings, will continue to be supported with $3.1 million funding.
Direct COVID-19 support for New Zealand heritage organisations, to be made available from 1 July 2020 onwards.:
- Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga receives $11.3 million over four years to address existing cost pressures and enable it to continue its vision of heritage being valued, respected and preserved for present and future generations. A further $250,000 will go towards investigating the seismic upgrade and refurbishment of Turnbull House.
- Te Papa Tongarewa, our national museum, receives $18 million to remain open to the public and continue to connect treasured collections and taonga to New Zealanders.
- The Antarctic Heritage Trust receives $1.4 million to continue its heritage conservation work in Antarctica and continue to inspire young explorers in New Zealand.
- The Waitangi National Trust receives $4 million to ensure that the Waitangi Treaty Grounds are open to the public.
- Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision receives $31.8 million over four years to digitally preserve content stored in at-risk magnetic media. This will ensure taonga is available for future generations.
Māori and Pasifika
- $20 million over two years for mātauranga Māori initiatives to support iwi, hapū, whānau and Māori communities with projects that will protect their mātauranga and taonga from the impact and ongoing threat of COVID-19.
- A further $2.4 million over two years to Te Matatini to deliver regional Kapa Haka competitions and the 2021 National Festival.
Discussions to refine the details of the funding will take place with participating agencies, iwi and Māori communities post-budget. Final details on how to access funding will be available in September 2020.
- $12 million across three years will support Pasifika festivals throughout New Zealand — eligibility criteria is being developed jointly by Creative NZ, Ministry for Pacific Peoples and Manatū Taonga.
- $10 million to establish a New Zealand Fale Malae, with $2 million immediately available to support the detailed planning and consent work for this project.
Further initiatives will be announced in the coming days.
On the home front: ode to a Brisbane shutdown
In a bit of lighter news that’s flown under the radar, Brisbane Greens Councillor Jonathan Sri last week unveiled a Gabba Ward ‘shutdown album’ featuring 10 songs written by local artists during the shutdown.
Set to be recorded and mixed by West End’s Tanuki Lounge, the album will include tracks submitted by a range of bands or solo artists that have a strong connection to Brisbane’s inner-south side (i.e. the suburbs of West End, South Brisbane, Dutton Park, Highgate Hill, Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba).
“Rather than picking ‘the 10 best local bands,’ this project is about amalgamating a collection of tracks that reflect and represent the current state of local music in the Gabba Ward, and speak to the uncertain period we’re living through,” Sri wrote.
“We’re hoping to mostly feature songs that have been written recently or finished off during the shutdown, but we definitely aren’t aiming for an entire album of songs that are necessarily directly about the pandemic.”
The team has also set the following diversity targets, which they note are similar to 4ZZZ Community Radio’s Targets:
- At least 50% of acts on the album should include at least one member who identifies as a woman or non-binary
- At least 5% of the acts on the album should include at least one member who identifies as First Nations
- At least 20% of the acts on the album should include at least one member who identifies as a person of colour/not white
This project has a total budget of $10,000 from the Gabba Ward local grants budget, which, Sri explains, “would otherwise be spent supporting community events and festivals (most of which have been cancelled due to the shutdown)”.
Roughly half of that will go towards production costs — including recording, mixing, mastering and studio hire — and the rest towards paying participating acts $400 each. Tracks will be released online on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis, with 50% of any profits from sales to be split among artists and the remaining 50% to go towards performers at future community events; this will be allocated at the discretion of the Gabba Ward Office and the Tanuki Lounge.
Songs, and potentially other short pieces of poems/comedy/storytelling etc, will be decided by the following volunteer selection panel:
- Nell Forster, music producer/engineer
- Shannon Logan, owner Jet Black Cat Music
- Trina Massey, DJ, music industry figure and former Greens city council candidate
- Morgyn Quinn, Island Vibe Festival founder
- Councillor Jonathan Sri
Submissions are open until 9am on Monday, 8 June, and the team hope to release the album online by late July/August. Per community interest, they may also look to developing a physical album.
Northern Territory eases quarantine arrangements
Yesterday, the Northern Territory government announced that, from Monday, 15 June, the territory will transition from mandatory, monitored quarantine to mandatory, self-quarantine for interstate visitors.
Arrivals will be able to undertake the 14-day quarantine period in their own home, in private accommodation, or in appropriate commercial accommodation, at their own cost:
- Arrivals from interstate will be able to choose their own quarantine arrangements – as long as it is appropriate, within the guidelines directed by the Chief Health Officer.
- Arrivals will not have to stay at accommodation selected and secured by the NT Government, and the $2500 quarantine fee will no longer apply.
This change will not apply to people arriving from overseas, including overseas arrivals transiting from interstate, and monitored quarantine will continue to apply for this cohort.
Finally, the new arrangement will also include the following mandatory coronavirus testing regime for all arrivals going into quarantine:
- Arrivals will be tested for COVID-19 in the first 72 hours of their quarantine, and tested again in the final 72 hours of their quarantine.
- Ending their quarantine after 14 days will depend on returning two negative tests.
Queensland ramps up health and wellbeing support for First Nations communities, announces small business commissioner
The Queensland government has made more than $21 million available for existing initiatives supporting the health and wellbeing of First Nations Queenslanders and communities during COVID-19.
Focus areas include:
- Facilitating partnerships between Hospital and Health Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations to support local COVID-19 responses;
- Bolstering the frontline health workforce to help people remain connected and continue their healthcare during this time;
- Rolling out innovative models of healthcare in the home, from the home and close to home;
- Enabling a surge workforce capacity to respond to community outbreaks; and
- Providing funding for increased communication activities.
Elsewhere, Queensland’s Small Business Champion Maree Adshead will take on the new role of Small Business Commissioner until the end of 2020 to help the sector recover from the impact of COVID-19.
- The Victorian government launched the Business Adaptation grants program under the Working for Victoria Agriculture Workforce Plan, which offers individual grants of between $10,000 and $300,000 to support food supply chain businesses in rural, regional and outer metropolitan areas.
- The South Australian government announced that wineries, pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to seek to temporarily change or expand their licensed footprint. Separately, the government enlisted five local companies to produce up to 7000 clear plastic face shields per day in supporting healthcare workers.
- Tasmania announced an additional $50,000 to expand Wine Tasmania’s existing industry engagement projects, which include a range of workshops, presentations, training and resources for wine producers.