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Has the window closed for a Centre for Econ and Epi?

Summary:
A while back I argued that the government should set up an independent body charged immediately with producing integrated economic and epidemiological forecasts, analysis and virus/fiscal policy options. With the vaccine roll out proceeding at >400k shots per day, and the end of lockdown measures in sight, has the time for a body like this come and gone? I don’t think so. For a start, if we had such a body now we could be debating openly and transparently how to allocate vaccines; and how to time the relaxation of social distancing measures. This would make policy more easily scrutinized, and begin to reduce the uncertainty about what the immediate post covid19 future looks like. There is also the point that to a greater or lesser extent there may not be a post

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A while back I argued that the government should set up an independent body charged immediately with producing integrated economic and epidemiological forecasts, analysis and virus/fiscal policy options.

With the vaccine roll out proceeding at >400k shots per day, and the end of lockdown measures in sight, has the time for a body like this come and gone?

I don’t think so.

For a start, if we had such a body now we could be debating openly and transparently how to allocate vaccines; and how to time the relaxation of social distancing measures. This would make policy more easily scrutinized, and begin to reduce the uncertainty about what the immediate post covid19 future looks like.

There is also the point that to a greater or lesser extent there may not be a post covid19 future.

We may face new mutations that need vaccine tweaks that happen with a sufficient delay that there are new bouts of social distancing required. Or even without these mutations, perhaps waning immunity will become apparent and social distancing will be needed again if top ups don’t come quickly enough.

Morever, many of the things in the terms of reference I suggested for the Centre are about the post covid legacy. How the disease’s legacy, or the expectation of another pandemic, might affect the spatial economy, remote working, transport, de-urbanization.

Finally, a body like this could help other countries taking longer to win this phase of the covid19 battle, being a channel for technical assistance overseas. Fantasising wildly, one can imagine a global network of similarly constituted bodies doing this, helping suppress the virus now and sustaining better analytical preparedness for the future.

It is not too late.

Tony Yates
Economist. Consulting, lecturing, a book. Ex Prof at Bham, Ex BoE staffer. Macro, policy, monetary econ, occasional nonsense.

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