Kevin Nealer's 2016 Analysis of a Future Global Pandemic

March 6, 2020

In 2016, The International Economy asked 50 experts to predict “what outside-the-box developments could shock the world.” Scowcroft Principal Kevin Nealer’s response focused on the lack of preparation for future global pandemics, something the Coronavirus has certainly confirmed. Find his full take below:


Kevin G. Nealer

Principal, Scowcroft Group

Health threats in the form of pandemics aren’t a surprise for the global economy, because they are inevitable. What qualifies as surprising is that the international community remains stunningly under-resourced to respond to them. Congress’s inaction on a modest Zika funding measure is evidence that health risks don’t become retail politics until it is too late. The entire WHO budget remains flat and its contingency funding for global emergencies is just $228 million, half what it was in 2013. Information sharing and coordination among governments remains weak. The tacit learning from Ebola, MRSA, and other outbreaks is that they are hyped as threats. That is true until it is not. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a severe pandemic would shave 4.25 percent off of U.S. GDP; even a mild outbreak could cut U.S. growth by 1 percent and cost $3 trillion worldwide.