Desi Talk

4 VIEWPOINT April 30, 2021 – that’s all you need to know The Global Vaccine Crisis Is A Test Of Capitalism T he 2008 crash-tested financial globalization. In 2020, the chaos of the early months of the covid-19 pandemic led many to question the world’s de- pendence on complex global supply chains. These last few months, however, as vaccination programs have taken off in some parts of the world and stalled in others, have raised even deeper doubts about globaliza- tion and the capitalist system. Unless governments act soon, capitalism itself could face a crisis of credibility. The greatest argument in favor of regulated markets is that they manage production better than any other system. Done properly, regulated market capitalism is supposed to match supply and demand, and provide the right incentives. Productive capacity is built, not wasted. Buyers and sellers are connected. Innovation thrives and benefits everyone. But, right now, that’s not the case. This isn’t about in- equality, which we always knew capitalism could create. It’s about inefficiency, which capitalism is supposed to avoid. When it comes to desperately needed coronavirus vaccines, capacity is being wasted and innovation isn’t benefiting everyone. Twelve billion vaccine doses could be produced this year, if all current projections are ag- gregated. But we’re nowhere close to that in actuality. And the doses that are available have largely been gobbled up by rich countries. Can more be produced? In many developing nations, pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity is being unde- rutilized. One Bangladeshi company says it could churn out 600 to 800 million doses annually if granted the ap- propriate licenses and know-how. Even if that’s an overes- timate, too many such factories stand idle, waiting for a nod from regulators and patent-holders. The 41 members of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Net- work alone produce between three and four billion shots of other vaccines every year. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that multiple countries have demanded intellectual property rights essentially be suspended for the duration of the pandemic for Covid- related drugs and vaccines. That sounds like a tempting - even satisfying - solution. But, as my colleague David Fickling has pointed out, if getting new vaccines out the door was as simple as ignoring IPR rules, then we would see developing countries doing just that by issuing what are called “compulsory licenses.” They haven’t. True, some countries may fear retaliation if they issue such licenses; a broad IPR waiver would get around that problem. But the larger issue is that something as com- plex as a coronavirus vaccine cannot be easily reverse- engineered. Simply telling companies they’re free to try won’t do much good. In other words, we need Big Pharma to cooperate and license its technology to as many manufacturers at possible. Somewhat to my surprise, the vaccine industry seems already to be working unusually hard at this. While the usual timeline for technology transfer is years, one study looked at over 70 such outsourcing and partnership deals during the pandemic and found that the typical time between the transfer and the start of manufacturing had shrunk to six months. But the disincentives for Big Pharma to expand pro- duction even further are considerable. It isn’t that all of them are greedy capitalists worried that they’ll lose a bit of cash, despite what you may have read in that angry post on Facebook. Some have, after all, agreed to give up on profit-making while the pandemic rages - so it’s in their interest to ensure that covid-19 switches from pandemic to endemic as soon as possible. More likely, the binding constraint is that they’re already really stretched internally; every new licensee that they sign up would add another location they’d need to carefully scrutinize to ensure that it meets good manufacturing practices. As Rajeev Venkayya of Takeda Vaccines Inc. argued on Twitter, “every aspect of vaccine manufacturing is tightly controlled,” “70% of manufac- turing time is spent on quality control,” and “all of these challenges carry over to manufacturing partnerships for capacity expansion.” Even so, these can’t be seen as insurmountable ob- stacles, not when the situation is so dire. Several promi- nent figures associated with global public health and the World Health Organization issued an appeal last month in the British Medical Journal for companies to “volun- tarily step up with licensing and share their knowledge with multiple producers - moving from a limited set of contract manufacturers to a coordinated effort with mul- tiple producers.” If that is to happen, governments will have to help. Rich-country governments should, in particular, consider how to pay for the renovation and expansion of facilities in the developing world to prepare them to make vac- cines under license. Developing-country governments should strengthen their own commitment to regulation and to intellectual property, in order to ensure that their own manufacturers look attractive as licensing partners. If both sides don’t meet this challenge, then across the world people are going to wonder if a system that leads to wasted capacity and market failure even dur- ing a global pandemic is all it’s cracked up to be. Global trading rules, basic respect for intellectual property and much else hangs in the balance. Unless we can scale up our response soon, capitalism’s reputation could take a bigger hit in 2021 than 2008, or 1929. Mihir Swarup Sharma is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a senior fellow at the Observer Re- search Foundation in New Delhi and head of its Economy and Growth Programme. He is the author of “Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy,” and co-editor of “What the Economy Needs Now.” -Bloomberg By Mihir Sharma Photo:Twitter Here’s What Kamala Harris Owes To Walter Mondale U pon the death of former vice presidentWalter “Fritz” Mondale last week, Vice President Ka- mala Harris remarked that Mondale’s signature in her desk drawer, along with that of 11 other vice presidents, will always remind her of her gratitude for his life of service. But Harris won’t see Mondale’s signature very often because that desk sits in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. And Mondale’s foremost contribution to the vice presidency was reshaping the position from a primarily ceremonial role into a position of influence, which included a physi- cal move from the ceremonial office to theWestWing. Here’s howWalter Mondale changed the U.S. vice presidency. Mondale’s recent predecessors worked out of the cer- emonial office, which was appropriate given that most of their work (and there wasn’t much) was ceremonial. For most of American history, the vice presidency was a political joke. John Adams, the first vice president, called it “the most insignificant office that ever the inven- tion of man contrived.” Things went downhill from there. In 1974, historian Arthur Schlesinger asked whether we needed a vice president at all, calling it “a job of spectacu- lar and, I believe, incurable, frustration.” President Jimmy Carter, elected in 1976, saw the vice presidency as an underused resource. In his running mate, Mondale, Carter found a partner to remake the vice presidency. Together, Carter and Mondale established what lead- ing “Veepologist” Joel Goldstein calls the “White House Vice Presidency” - a version of our second-highest office in which the VP is fully integrated into the policy process and a key adviser and surrogate to the president. Carter and Mondale set new precedents for vice presi- dents. Before Mondale, vice presidents rarely met with the president, and they and their staff had little access to White House meetings. During the post-election transi- tion, Mondale wrote a memo to Carter outlining that to be an effective partner, he and his staff needed to be fully integrated into theWhite House, including access to intelligence briefings andWhite House meetings. The memo is the founding document of the modernWhite House vice presidency. Carter agreed to Mondale’s suggestions, then added that he needed the vice president to be closer at hand and offered theWestWing office. He believed the Eisenhower building - a five-minute walk from theWestWing - was too far away to be effective in the fast-pacedWhite House process. Mondale concurred, noting, “If you’re over there, you might as well be in Baltimore.” Thanks to these arrangements established by Carter and Mondale, today, as a matter of course, Harris joins President Joe Biden to receive the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), she lunches with Biden privately each week, and her staff represents her in keyWhite House meetings. Paul Light, in his 1984 study of the vice presidency, ob- served that these changes gave the vice president critical access. Influencing the president and participating in the policy process wouldn’t be possible without this access, but access does not guarantee influence. Mondale exercised influence not by pushing his own agenda, but by helping Carter be a better president. Mondale played his role with discretion and advised his successors to do the same: Offer advice confidentially to limit leaks, do not claim credit or avoid blame, and “do not wear a president down” - make the case, then accept the president’s decision. Mondale’s successors, Republi- cans and Democrats alike, have followed this model. Mondale advised future vice presidents to comple- ment their president. In this, Mondale excelled. Carter was the first modern “outsider” president, with no political experience at the national level. Trained as an engineer, Carter sought optimal solutions without con- sideration of politics. National security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski called Mondale “a vital political barometer” and “a needed corrective” to Carter’s refusal to consider politics. Mondale demonstrated how the new vice presidency could be a deep asset. His knowledge of the Senate and feel for politics was critical for turning major Carter initiatives into reality. Mondale’s legislative acumen was essential in passing the Panama Canal Treaty, for instance. The then-head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and several Carter-Mondale staffers, including Carter’s domestic policy adviser Stuart Eizen- stat, told me in interviews that Mondale’s relationships with the American Jewish community and Israeli leader- ship played a crucial role in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. Mondale’s long history of public service helped Carter on issues large and small, and his experienced staff helped the Carter team with the nuts and bolts of con- gressional relations. Here’s an example: As a senator, Mondale had served on the Church Committee, investigating intelligence community excesses. In theWhite House, Mondale led the administration’s intelligence reform efforts, including the creation of the FISA Court, which established legal oversight of domestic intelligence wiretapping. During the Reagan presidency, Vice President George By Aaron Mannes Vice President Kamala Harris gives a speech in Washington on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Washington Postphoto byDemetrius Freeman - Continued On Page 6