Recently, Dr. Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and the Director of the Mittal Institute, addressed an online audience of more than 15,000 youth at the South Asia Youth Resilience Summit organized by Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC). Dr. Khanna was in conversation with Ejaj Ahmad, the president and founder of BYLC. Describing the impact of COVID-19 on South Asia as a “very significant public health catastrophe and economic contraction,” Dr. Khanna explained what needs to be done on the individual and state levels to pragmatically confront the challenges of the ongoing crisis.
A recent report by the World Bank predicts that Spring 2020 might witness South Asia’s worst economic performance in forty years. Against the background of this bleak economic scenario, Dr. Khanna’s session “Resilience: Eyes-wide-open,” addressed the youth of South Asia and focused on the way to respond constructively to a crisis.
According to Dr. Khanna, the response to COVID-19 must take into account that its impact is likely to linger and manifest in episodic recurrences. He emphasized the importance of identifying the “contours” — the broad patterns and telltale signs — of the economic impact of the crisis, and using this knowledge to equip world societies to craft immediate and more meditative responses to tackle episodic recurrences of COVID-19 hotspots in future.
For individuals, online engagement is the key to scout for opportunities and make adjustments to the existing skills and resources to remain relevant in the post-pandemic world. The economy at large, he feels, might have to undergo a recalibration period during which resources will be reallocated to newer sectors.
Regarding the impact of the crisis on higher education in South Asia, Dr. Khanna predicted that the balance is likely to shift towards embracing online learning along with the recognition that homegrown institutions are an important part of the academic framework. Addressing the growing anxiety of many young people in South Asia who fear adverse impact of the pandemic on the labor market, Dr. Khanna advocated to rethink the demand for attributes such as empathy, resilience, and entrepreneurial abilities over vocational specificity.
As a key takeaway for the youth, Dr. Khanna noted the importance of of “getting involved with the immediate community — virtually for now or physically when social distancing guidelines permit — as an important mechanism to stay grounded and to learn from events unfolding around us.”