AUTHOR: Mehr Minhas
(Student, Grade 12, Vivek High School, Chandigarh)
The Belt and Road project was initiated by China and is one of the most strategic initiatives of the 21st century. Giving loans to countries for construction of roads and ports which low income countries can possibly never pay back with national securities as collateral. On top of it, the companies used for the construction of these roads or ports are mostly Chinese, thus creating a monopoly for the companies hired for the construction and not allowing local companies to step into business. When the countries surrender, China swiftly takes control of a powerful port adding in for Chinas strategic value. This is an amazing bargain for China. In Sri Lanka, as I’m sure many of you are aware, China leased the Hambantota port for 99 years. Now, since China has an 80% share in the Hambantota Port, it means that China has been prospering heavily. Even though the profits are usually only a few million dollars with 1.5 million dollars in profits in 2016 and so on, the navy presence has made this port an asset for China. China also has big plans which will heavily increase the profits and we can count on China to deliver.
But why is an American-based private company doing something similar? Pfizer is bullying countries into acting as a shield of armor for it against any and every legal case. This is the product of capitalism and imperialism. Pfizer is asking low income countries to keep their national securities, military bases, and embassies as collateral if any citizen of their country tries to sue Pfizer and wins. Although most of the countries are staying confidential due to private agreements, there are shocking similarities between this and the belt and road initiative by China.
China is an independent country that is exploiting low-income nations by providing them with what they desperately need (financial assistance for development) but swiftly catching them in a debt trap. Pfizer is an independent company which again is providing low income countries what they desperately need (a lifesaving vaccine) and exploiting the pandemic in their favor. Both are keeping national securities as collateral. Pfizer has repeatedly said that it will be providing vaccines to low-income nations for a decreased price but keeping national securities and assets as collateral is hardly a bargain. The question then comes, why does acquiring national securities of low-income countries benefit Pfizer? It puts the pharmaceutical company in a state of superiority. It helps Pfizer make sure that the countries bend at its will. It helps Pfizer to make sure that the countries do not back down on their word and help them escape all legal cases. It makes you wonder how underconfident the company with the best vaccine in the world is. Pfizer is making sure it maximizes its profits and knowing that its vaccine is in most demand helps in this case. Pfizer is set to make 15 billion dollars in sales through its covid vaccine in 2021 alone. Deals with such sensitive collateral help them get away with millions or even billions in predicted lawsuits. Pfizer and Argentina could not reach a consensus because Pfizer demanded protection from the law and wanted to be free of all civil and criminal liabilities. Even though citizens of Argentina played a huge role as the participants in phase 3, Pfizer hasn’t been able to supply a single dose to the country. In the United Kingdom, the country has given Pfizer full immunity against multimillion lawsuits. Imagine the company without any immunity from the government. There would be numerous multimillion-dollar lawsuits in numerous countries. In 2012, Pfizer settled a lawsuit worth 3 billion dollars. If Pfizer doesn’t receive immunity, it might end up loosing billions again. Resulting in a decrease of profits and stocks. Since the consumer will stop trusting this company, the company will simply crash. Pfizer is exploiting nations with the incentive of a vaccine that will help contain the pandemic in countries like Brazil. Pfizer wants the best of both worlds. It wants profit maximization and it wants all countries to bend its laws for it. I hate to burst Pfizer’s perfect little bubble, but this is just extortion. We need to realize the economic consequence of this pandemic in terms of relations between countries and pharmaceutical companies. Private pharma companies have only one thing in mind and that is profit. Even though more than half of the funding for the vaccine has been from various governments, Pfizer has made countries a slave to its power. Pfizer is aware of the situation it has orchestrated. These Latin countries are aiming to increase their speed of vaccination and can only do so by a combination of numerous vaccines. India has been donating vaccines but since it is facing a shortage for its own citizens it seems unlikely that India will be donating any, anytime soon. Coming on to the Russian vaccines, the production has just started to increase following a deal in India. The only option that is left, is a combination of American vaccines along with another vaccine. Thus, whatever Latin countries want to do in order to increase their vaccination process, American vaccines are important. No matter what happens, these countries will have to accept the deal proposed by Pfizer
Another very interesting move by Pfizer is that it is refusing to talk to private players about its rollout of vaccines in India. Since it only wants to talk to the Government and looking at its past discussions with many governments, we can only imagine what India will have to put up as collateral in its deal with Pfizer.
This gives us one major conclusion. The pandemic has favored the pharma industry to extreme lengths and pharma companies will do anything to stay in power.