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Toward a Sustainable Recovery

The conventional narrative about the course of the COVID-19 crisis is easy to understand, but ultimately incorrect. Rather than a cleanly schematic multi-phase process of emergency response and recovery, the crisis demands a comprehensive approach in which short- and long-term goals are aligned from the beginning.

PARIS – With countries in most of Europe progressively easing their COVID-19 lockdowns, it is time not only to chart a course out of the immediate crisis, but also to hold a much-needed debate about designing and funding a long-term plan for sustainable recovery.

As we do so, we first must acknowledge that the intellectual framework with which we first responded to the COVID-19 shock is deeply flawed, even if it did help push governments to action. At the moment, the political debate is still structured around the assumption of a four-phase response: crisis management (for the public-health emergency); exit (rescuing and then “reopening” the economy); recovery; and, finally, a “new normal.”

But reality is never as neat as our intellectual constructs. We are traveling down an extraordinarily bumpy unlit road. Governments are still groping in the dark for policies to navigate the crisis. The European Union and most national governments have introduced massive rescue packages that will have a profound impact on the shape of the recovery, without yet having a clear view of what that recovery should look like.