August 5, 2021

Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalist Nations Bailed Out Banks While Skimping on Funds to Vaccinate Humanity

3 min read

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report, The Quarantine Report.
We look now at the push to respond to what the World Health Organization calls “vaccine apartheid” with vaccine internationalism. More than 2.6 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, but many countries have yet to see a single shot amidst mounting infections. Eighty-five percent of vaccines administered worldwide have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Only 0.3% of doses have been administered in low-income countries.
Last week, G7 nations pledged to donate more than 600 million new vaccine doses — far less than the 1 billion originally promised. This was the focus of an emergency four-day virtual Summit on Vaccine Internationalism this weekend, attended by government ministers, parliamentarians, public health officials from countries around the world, including Argentina, Bolivia, Vietnam, India, Greece, the United Kingdom, Canada and Cuba. The summit was organized by Progressive International, the group founded by Senator Bernie Sanders and the former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis. This is Varoufakis.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: I want to share with you two numbers. $9,000 billion, $9,000 billion, $9 trillion — this is the sum of money that the G7, the leading economies, central banks printed to give to the bankers during the pandemic between March of 2020 and today, $9,000 billion.

Now for the second number. The International Monetary Fund has come up with an estimate of how much it would cost, at the present prices, to vaccinate the world, using existing vaccines, to vaccinate everyone fully, two doses when necessary: $39 billion.

So, compare and contrast: 9,000, 39. They printed 9,000 for the bankers, and they are still thinking about how to vaccinate the world, that would cost only 39.

We progressives, of course, never expect the central bankers of the capitalist West to produce the $39 billion, even though it would just be a touch of a button for them, to vaccinate humanity. We do not expect such humanism from them.

But, comrades, it is essential that we broadcast from the rooftops the news, for everyone to listen to, that they printed 9,000 billion, and only with 39 they could have ended the pandemic for the world, because only by demonstrating to good people out there who are not radicalized, who are not part of the Progressive International, who are not leftists, only by explaining to them that we don’t need even to wait for socialism, for nationalization of Big Pharma, for big, structural, revolutionary changes — a tiny little move of one finger within the existing awful capitalism would have saved humanity from COVID-19, and they are not doing it. This is how we inject outrage in the hearts and minds of good people out there who are not radicalized yet. This is how we radicalize the world, in order to be able to end the patent monopoly of Big Pharma, in order to internationalize, nationalize, socialize — call it whatever you will — Big Pharma, so that there are no more patents that prevent people from access to pharmaceuticals — vaccines, drugs, whatever is necessary — which is available in order to save lives.

So, let’s do it all. Expose Big Pharma, big politics, the oligarchy for their lack of willingness to do even things that are consistent with their own awful system, in order to save humanity. Work towards ending the patent system, replacing it, for instance, with a prize system. How about having a situation where we say, “Whichever company produces a vaccine against HIV, we’ll give them 5, 10 billion, but not a patent”? Then they will have to make the patent available to everyone. Support existing pharmaceutical companies in Cuba, in Africa that can produce vaccines today. And start the process of convincing the world out there who are not part of the Progressive International that they should be part of the Progressive International, radicalizing them by means of this combination of, on the one hand, demonstrating to them life-saving changes that could take place even within this global techno-feudalism, as I call global capitalism, and then harvest the ensuing anger in order to create the revolutionary progressive dynamic by which we are going to change the world, vaccinate everyone and provide the basics to everyone that needs them. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.