Summers Says Preparing for Pandemics Like Buying Amazon Early

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told governments that spending now to prepare for fighting future pandemics was the equivalent of buying stock in Amazon.com Inc. in its early years.

Speaking from Venice, where he gave advice to a meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs, Summers said the cost of getting ready now for coronavirus-style health emergencies would be in the low tens of billions of dollars.

Summers Says Preparing for Pandemics Like Buying Amazon Early

“The benefits if we prevent another covid are in the tens of trillions of dollars once you add up all the various costs and all the various remedial measures,” Summers said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin. “This is the public sector equivalent of buying Amazon in the 1990s and the public sector doesn’t get served up many of those opportunities so I sure hope the world’s governments take it.”

Among the actions policy makers should take are finding a way to better coordinate planning and responses across borders, just as the Financial Stability Board was established following the 2008 financial crisis, said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank should demonstrate “more creativity, ingenuity and commitment” to battling global crisis, he said. And governments should commit more money now to avoid a repeat of the time lag it took to procure masks, discover data, and find and distribute vaccines during the current pandemic, he added.

Summers argued politicians have a small window to act now while the coronavirus is fresh in their minds.

“This is a problem that can be solved,” he said. “We can’t eliminate epidemics, we can’t eliminate illness, but we can very substantially cut back the costs to the world economy if we have the will to do it.”

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