Thoughts on economics and liberty

India’s lockdowns most likely caused 100-1000 times greater harms than any benefits

Now that the CBA numbers for Australia have been decided upon by Gigi Foster (in case you missed it), I thought I’d spend around 10 minutes to outline the implications for India.

For India the growth in debt was not so huge as in Australia. But it was significant, nevertheless – India’s debt to GDP ratio increased from 74 per cent to 90 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But three factors in India make its lockdowns costs almost infinite, in comparison with any benefits:

a) Lockdowns did not prevent any COVID deaths. Unlike in Australia it was not practical for India to prevent COVID deaths through lockdowns – so any benefits were zero or close to zero (I’m not taking into account any positive effect of vaccines, which came to both countries virtually at the same time, although Australia has had a higher uptake).

b) Lockdowns harmed the poor extremely disproportionately, since they had no fall-back mechanism to survive. Not only were millions of people thrown into poverty, hundreds of millions at the bottom of the economic ladder in India suffered extreme harms from lack of food and medicine. In addition, obesity increased among the rich who worked from home; and I’m certain that alcohol intake also increased. For Australia Gigi Foster assumes in the CBA that only 1 week was shaved off the lifespan of Australians, in India this figure would be far greater: possibly 6 months or more (for Indonesia estimates are well over one year).

c) I haven’t checked but it is almost certain in my view that India experienced vastly more non-COVID deaths during the lockdowns. We have data on suicides (which increased) but the biggest killer would be cancer, like in Australia. People were panicked and did not get their symptoms checked in time.

Given these factors, I ‘d argue that the harms from India’s lockdowns would have exceeded any benefits by an order of at least 100 times, and most likely around a 1000 times.

India, of course, has no culture of a cost benefit analysis. Being a Third World country without a rigorous policy processes, all public policy is made whimsically by politicians and IAS officials. So they would never do a CBA anyway.

In fact, if they did a CBA, they would need to change ALL their policies. It is these Third World socialist and arbitrary policies that keep India desperately poor.



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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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