Chapter 1: Introduction: the economic redesign imperative
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Recovery from the economic crisis heralded by the COVID-19 pandemic will remain on the front burner of the economic development policy debate for a while. The pandemic triggered the most severe economic downturn since World War II, causing unprecedented disruptions in lives, economies, and societies. The virus has tested the limits of healthcare and economic systems across the world, with regional policy, supply chains, FDI, and tourism in many jurisdictions navigating uncharted waters. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, business leaders and policymakers ramped up healthcare capacity and spending in a bid to save lives and contain the pandemic. Since the crisis stems from a pandemic, understanding its impact on the economy and healthcare system remains critical for any interventions to deliver an equitable and resilient recovery. Unlike other economic crises in recent history, the source of the current recession is not financial. The pandemic-induced crisis is the outcome of an exogenous shock that triggered an economic crisis, with second order effects. While the scale of the economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic is significant, with disproportionate impacts on marginalized groups, the potential silver linings in the crisis are the opportunity it presents for fixing the various ills associated with the pre-pandemic economy – in the context of structural barriers and unfair economic designs that allowed too many to be left behind. To the extent that economic growth and social inclusion are not mutually exclusive, interventions targeted at building a more inclusive economy must be centered on equity and economic mobility. Healing the economic and social wounds inflicted by the pandemic will take time, but the long road to recovery presents a unique opportunity for regional business leaders, policymakers, civil society, and other key stakeholders to build back better. While accelerated vaccine development in the advanced and emerging economies offered a glimmer of hope for a quick recovery, new and emerging negative byproducts of the pandemic - e.g., supply-chain disruptions, labour market imbalances, and rising inflationary pressures - are prolonging the crisis, in addition to undermining recovery efforts. In the global context, unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines in in low- and lower-middle income countries remains a major challenge. To catalyze change and succeed in the post-pandemic era, economic development policy and practice must see the crisis as an opportunity to rethink and redesign regional economic systems. Among others, this will involve creating a shared understanding of, and policies to address, the differential impacts of the pandemic across occupations, industries, and socioeconomic groups. To the extent that it is only a matter of when - and not if - the next crisis will happen, rethinking how existing economic development tools, frameworks, and practices can be optimized has never been more compelling. Even so, there will be no easy solutions; special attention must be given to interventions capable of accelerating desirable trends that are likely to shape the next normal. This is the preoccupation of this book. The various chapters present deductive arguments for deploying cutting-edge solutions, mobilizing resources, and engaging key stakeholders on the road to building a more inclusive, equitable, resilient, and sustainable economy. The book is divided into four parts. The introduction sets the pace with contemporary discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic, regional economic systems, and the economic redesign imperative. Part II discusses the challenges and opportunities heralded by the virus in the broadest sense - with emphasis on occupational identity and economic mobility, regional responses, and the misunderstood role of population density. Part III examines several case studies and their associated pros and cons for equitable and inclusive economic recoveries vis-à-vis childcare provision, gender equality, and the future of work debate. An unprecedented reallocation of labor and capital in favor of industries that will thrive in the post-pandemic economy is expected in the coming years; it is therefore important to choose long-term recovery strategies carefully. The implications for regional innovation ecosystems in areas such as clusters, remote work, neighborhood infrastructure, and the visitor economy are unpacked in Part IV.

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