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SARS: Desperate to get connected? - Views on News from Equitymaster
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  • Apr 22, 2003

    SARS: Desperate to get connected?

    While the rest of the (relevant economic) world has spent all their time trying to limit the damage of SARS, the Indian government has probably been trying to find a SARS patient to prove that yes, India does matter in the greater global scheme of things!

    The SARS virus proves or, rather, re-confirms, two things:

    1. human beings are subject to a “biological attack” from sources other than the “axis of evil”, and

    2. India is not an economically relevant country in the global scheme of things.

    While exposure to biological attacks from natural disasters is unlikely to lessen the resolve of the Bush administration to go about dismantling any evil empires, the failure of SARS in the Indian context (in one sense a huge blessing) should encourage our distracted politicians to step back and examine where India stands in the global economy. Or even what the acronym SARS means. For those who believe that SARS means Sab Aye Ram Se (I have never doubted the belief in the Creator), I think that CNN and the media are talking about the virus SARS. But what, you may ask, is the connection between SARS and the global economy?

    Elementary, my dear Watson.
    Data gathered from www.cnn.com and the WHO websites suggests that, as of April 21, 2003 there are 4,059 reported cases of SARS worldwide and 211 deaths due to the virus. Of the 4,059 reported cases, China had a “market share” of 44.5%, HK had 34.5%, Canada had 6.7%, Singapore had 4.4%, Taiwan had 0.7%, USA had 5.4%, and Vietnam had 1.6%. Between them the 7 countries (including China and HK with 79%) had a total of 97.8% of all the reported cases. India has reported one confirmed case so far – 0.025% market share.


    Well, the countries with a high market share of SARS cases all have significant trade or investments with China. China has been one of the engines of the global economy (the other being the consumer in USA) and one of the unintended consequences of this higher travel (that accompanies this higher trade with China) has been SARS. The pattern is unmistakable: If your country is a significant statistic in the global trade business, SARS is likely to be a concern for the country. If you are irrelevant in the global trade field (as our dear politicians have ensured India is), then SARS is (thankfully?) not a worry.

    So, while the rest of the (relevant economic) world has spent all their time trying to limit the damage of SARS, the Indian government has probably been trying to find a SARS patient to prove that yes, India does matter in the greater global scheme of things!

    On a more serious note, while SARS is indeed a terrible new disease, press reports suggest that more people die of flu in USA (30,000 a year) so SARS is not that fatal in comparison. And from an Indian perspective, the government needs to plug itself more into the global economy, beef up its infrastructure (health facilities, too), and market India as an alternative investment destination.



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