UKZN Academic Addresses International COVID-19 e-Conference
Professor Purshottama Reddy of the Discipline of Governance in UKZN’s School of Management, IT and Governance participated in a virtual conference hosted by the Secretariat of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS) at the end of June 2020.
Public Governance for Climate Action was the theme of a four-day e-Conference in which Reddy presented in a plenary session titled: COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Governance: Priorities, Trust and Engagement. Sharing the platform with Reddy were Professor Paul Joyce of the University of Birmingham in England, Dr F Marion of the IIAS, Professor Geert Bouckaert of the University of Leuven in Belgium; Professor R Schomaker of the German University of Administrative Sciences, and Dr John Mary Kauyza of the United Nations.
Issues highlighted by Reddy and discussed at the gathering included the quality of the public health system which impacted on pandemic preparedness and the availability of resources (especially financial, human, and technical) and medical equipment.
Reddy said there were noteworthy gaps in universal pandemic preparedness which remained inadequate, particularly in developing countries. ‘Many of these countries indicated that they would not have been prepared for the pandemic at any given point in time, due to the resource constraints. Despite challenges faced, particularly by developing countries, in the public healthcare system, resource constraints and vulnerability of the populace, it seems they had initially managed to contain the pandemic at an early stage as a result of enforced “lockdowns”.
‘However, it is still early days in many of these countries and one must adopt a “wait-and-see attitude”,’ said Reddy.
In developed countries, the public health care system/governance was reasonably good/responsive and well-funded. However, it seemed, he said, that many of these countries were completely overwhelmed by the severity of the pandemic, both in terms of infections/deaths and the resultant consequences. Behavioural compliance, decisive action, and the notion of democracy/human rights were also issues that had to be taken cognisance of in any analysis of the situation.
Reddy also chaired a session titled: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Governance: Measures and Lessons Learned, which featured two country presentations reviewing the experiences of Italy and Poland.
Commenting on the discussion, Reddy said: ‘Italy was one of the first countries to be affected and it was quite severe. It was pointed out that the country had an effective but weary public health care system. Poland, a former Eastern Bloc country which had some autocratic tendencies, was not very accountable, however, decision-making relative to the pandemic was swift. The latter was not very hard hit and the management of the pandemic was perceived as being successful to some extent.’
Reddy is currently Vice-President: Programmes of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA), and the Chairperson of the Programme and Research Committee of IIAS.
He is currently involved in a joint IIAS/IASIA collaborative research project titled: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Governance: Measures and Lessons Learnt. The research will culminate in an online publication next month, which will be available to IIAS/IASIA membership and participating countries. The publication will reflect on the national experiences of 52 countries and include an ‘eye witnesses’/practitioners’ perspective’ on country experiences ‘on the ground’.
Reddy’s two co-editors are Professor Joyce and Dr Marion.