Michael D Higgins says world must ‘reflect on systemic weaknesses’ in society exposed by COVID-19

Michael D Higgins says world must ‘reflect on systemic weaknesses’ in society exposed by COVID-19

THE PRESIDENT of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has called on the world to “reflect on the systemic weaknesses” Covid-19 has exposed and develop a fresh approach to economic thinking and inequality. 

Speaking in a keynote speech at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s ‘Confronting Planetary Emergencies’ conference, the 79-year-old head of state said the global health crisis had thrown the economic inequalities that exist into stark contrast. 

He said the virus had also highlighted the necessity for a fresh approach. 

The conference was held to discuss the differing approaches to the pandemic and how best to address other pressing global issues like poverty and climate change. 

“Understandably, much current economic commentary focuses on the cost of the pandemic,” Higgins said. 

"But we must also reflect on the systemic weaknesses it has exposed in how we organise our society and economy. 

“Our challenge is heretofore to draw on the lessons of solidarity and ingenuity, as COVID-19 confronts 21st century society and its world economy with a new kind of emergency hazard.” 

The speech saw the President of Ireland outline his belief that the global economic system, in its current form, falls foul of “crises and cascading failures” that may end up worsening the environmental crisis and could also lead to even greater social and economic inequality around the world. 

He called for new systemic approaches, new economic thinking and a “greater focus on resilience, safeguards and a symmetry” between economic, social and ecological issues. 

The comments mirror those made by Higgins during an interview with the Italian publication Il Manifesto, back in May, in which he warned that the COVID-19 crisis cannot lead to a resurgence in austerity measures throughout international economies. 

"It is time for a paradigm shift, and this change must take place in the streets of Europe,” he said.