Business leaders push for inclusivity after warning of localization and vaccine nationalism

Health, Fitness & Food

Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Business leaders have called on nations to be more inclusive when thinking about how they can reboot their economies following the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a CNBC-moderated panel at the Singapore Summit on Monday, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairman of Indian biopharmaceutical firm Biocon, said that “vaccine nationalism is creeping into the world,” with some countries eager to snap up the first stock of any approved vaccines.

It’s “very sad” when countries don’t realize this is a pandemic that has affected the entire world, she said, adding that sending vaccines to where they’re needed should be a global effort.

“People have to be less worried about the kind of trade wars they’re fighting right now, and realize there is something in it for everyone,” Mazumdar-Shaw said, referring to a global vaccination effort.

Finding a vaccine that can be used on large populations is likely to take at least a year to 18 months, according to Mazumdar-Shaw. “Until then have to deal with treating patients more efficiently,” she said.

Ajay Banga, chief executive at Mastercard, said he believed certain nationalist tendencies had been exacerbated by the virus.

“This physical distancing that we’ve been forced to go through for the sake of containing the virus, I think it’s actually put an accelerator on the nationalist tendencies at the expense of efficiencies and resiliencies that come with partnerships and trade relationships,” he said at the Singapore Summit, which is being held online this year.

Banga warned localization tendencies may prevent the transfer of data, impose technical standards that preclude competition, or create local monopolies. “I don’t think that’s the way we’re going to get ourselves back on a pathway of growth,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and chief executive of Schneider Electric, stressed that any reboot should be done with sustainability in mind.

“There is an astonishing amount of money that is put on the table by governments … but let’s make sure the future we are investing in is future proof,” he said on the panel, adding that there should be a focus on building and manufacturing in smart, green ways.

Tricoire also highlighted the importance of looking out for young people who have missed school as a result of the virus, and university leavers who are entering a subdued job market.

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