Jim O’Neill says his comments on India’s response to coronavirus misinterpreted

MUMBAI: Backtracking from his earlier statement that he was thankful the coronavirus outbreak started in China and not in India, British economist Jim O’Neill has now clarified that his comments got misinterpreted and it was not what he meant to convey.
“So let me just say it is very unfortunate how my comments appeared in March and I regret after how I said it,” the former Goldman Sachs chairman said in an interview.

“What I was really meaning is if you look at the nature of how Indian society is today, particularly the complexities of an urban life and (with) many people (living) particularly in the shanty towns and slum dwellings — by definition it is difficult to control something like this,” he told ETMarkets.com.

In mid-March, O’Neill had said on CNBC he was thankful that the coronavirus pandemic did not start in India. “Thank God this didn’t start in somewhere like India, because there’s absolutely no way that the quality of Indian governance could move to react in the way that the Chinese have done, that’s the good side of the Chinese model, and I think you could probably say the same about Brazil too,” he had said in a panel discussion on CNBC.

His snide comments had drawn widespread ire from Indian officials. Indian High Commission Minister Vishwesh Negi told CNBC that O’Neill’s comments were “ill-informed and irresponsible.”

Seven months later, the economist now says that even though his comments didn’t go well, the rapid spread of coronavirus confirmed his fears.

“It is just so hard and even though my comments upset people, the size of the infection’s increase in India unfortunately confirms what I said. And that’s what I really meant. If it would have started there it probably would have been a long time before anybody realized actually what it was,” he said.

O’Neill, who coined the term BRICS 19 years ago, said it is very fortunate that India has a good recovery rate and a low mortality rate.

India is currently the second-most impacted nation from Covid-19, after the United States. The country now has 66,23,815 total cases of coronavirus, including 9,34,427 active cases and 55,86,703 recoveries. A total of 1,02,685 people have lost their lives to the deadly virus till now.

On the brighter side, India continues to occupy the top position with the maximum number of Covid-19 recoveries and accounts for 21 per cent of the recovered cases worldwide, while its share in the total cases stands at 18.6 per cent, the Union Health Ministry said.

India has also maintained its global position with one of the lowest Covid-19 case fatality rates (CFR) when compared to several other countries.

O’Neill also pointed out that countries like India and many parts of Africa, with a younger population, seem to be suffering from lower mortality rates than countries with older populations.

Credit: Stocks-Markets-Economic Times

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