Why the Global Recession Could Last a Long Time 因冠狀病毒大流行 全球經濟衰退恐將持續很久
文/Peter S. Goodman
The world is almost certainly ensnared in a devastating recession delivered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, fears are growing that the downturn could be far more punishing and long lasting than initially feared — potentially enduring into next year, and even beyond — as governments intensify restrictions on business to halt the spread of the pandemic, and as fear of the virus reconfigures the very concept of public space, impeding consumer-led economic growth.
So long as human interaction remains dangerous, business cannot responsibly return to normal. And what was normal before may not be anymore. People may be less inclined to jam into crowded restaurants and concert halls even after the virus is contained.
The abrupt halt of commercial activity threatens to impose economic pain so profound and enduring in every region of the world at once that recovery could take years. The losses to companies, many already saturated with debt, risk triggering a financial crisis of cataclysmic proportions.
"This is already shaping up as the deepest dive on record for the global economy for over 100 years," said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard University economist. "Everything depends on how long it lasts, but if this goes on for a long time, it's certainly going to be the mother of all financial crises."
The situation looks uniquely dire in developing countries, which have seen investment rush for the exits this year, sending currencies plummeting, forcing people to pay more for imported food and fuel, and threatening governments with insolvency — while the pandemic threatens to overwhelm inadequate medical systems.
But the world that emerges is likely to be choked with trouble, challenging the recovery. Mass joblessness exacts societal costs. Widespread bankruptcy could leave industry in a weakened state, depleted of investment and innovation.
"The psychology won't just bounce back," said Charles Dumas, chief economist at TS Lombard, an investment research firm in London. "People have had a real shock. The recovery will be slow, and certain behavior patterns are going to change, if not forever at least for a long while."
A Plot Twist Confounds Publishers 延後出書時間 新冠肺炎讓出版商措手不及
Months ago, in what now feels like another era, publishers planning their 2020 schedules hoped to avoid releasing books in the fall, typically the industry's biggest season. Editors and writers worried that new releases would be lost in the deluge of political news leading up to the presidential election, so publishers jammed some of their biggest titles into the spring.
Now, a reverse exodus of sorts is taking place. Publishers are pushing back the release of dozens of books to summer and fall, in hopes that by then the coronavirus outbreak will be waning, bookstores will reopen, and authors will be able to tour and promote their work.
Some of the most anticipated titles of the spring have been delayed by weeks or months.
"Bookstores are shuttered, everyone right now is worried about their health and their livelihoods, there's so much anxiety," said writer Laila Lalami, whose new nonfiction book, "Conditional Citizens," was scheduled to come out from Pantheon in April, but has been moved to the fall. "It makes sense to postpone it until there's a bit more clarity, until we know what's going to happen."
Some publishers are even moving books to next year.
Such moves are a gamble, given the uncertainty surrounding the course of the epidemic and the economic crisis. Some publishers worry that the situation could be even worse in a few months, if more warehouses and distribution centers close, and if publishers have to confront reduced capacity at printing presses.
Paper shortages could also become an issue, as more paper stock gets consumed making cardboard for deliveries of essential products.
"For authors, it's really tough," said Daniel Halpern, the publisher of Ecco. "You work on a book for two or three years, and suddenly you find it coming out in a plague. There's so much unknown, and there's so much changing every hour."
Publishers who are delaying books now, in hopes that they can sell more copies in the future, are facing revenue shortfalls in the meantime.
Artists in every field, from musicians, dancers and opera singers to actors and television writers, have seen their livelihoods and income disrupted, or in some cases evaporated, as theaters, comedy clubs and studios have closed in the face of the epidemic. In some ways, the publishing industry is better positioned than many other businesses to weather the impact of the coronavirus. Books are in a way an ideal medium for this moment: Reading is a solitary act, and people who are sheltering in place may turn to books for escape, solace and connection.