“Different analysts may estimate costs and benefits differently, and there is room for a range of views. However the most startling aspect of Foster and Sabhlok’s work is not the details, or even the conclusion that costs massively outweighed benefits (with which I agree), but their claim (which seems to be correct) that no Australian state or federal government performed a CBA, either at the time of the lockdowns or subsequently. The most important lesson to learn from all this is the legally mandated necessity for any future pandemic-related decisions by governments to be accompanied by a CBA in support of them.”
— Dr Martin T Lally, Capital Financial Consultants Ltd.
Dr Martin T Lally, Capital Financial Consultants Ltd, in a book review of Do lockdowns and border closures serve the “greater good”? A cost-benefit analysis of Australia’s reaction to COVID-19, by Gigi Foster and Sanjeev Sabhlok, published on 29 September 2022.
My take on it
My introduction to Professor Foster was in her role as a panelist on Q&A, on 21 April of 2020. What caught my attention that night was not so much the questions that she asked, Impact Analysis 101-type questions which in my mind were already crying out for answers. What stood out was the jaw-drop reaction of the rest of the panel.
Nearly three years later, that amazing dichotomy persists.
Foster and Sabhlok completed – after the horse had bolted – the analysis that others were duty-bound to have completed beforehand. It showed that the policy response had indeed been counter-productive, ie against the public interest.
Other analyses have formed the same conclusion. The Institute Of Public Affairs’ report, Hard Lessons, also released in September, called Australia’s zero-covid strategy and its associated lock-down measures, “a humanitarian disaster”:
“It’s easy to understand why the authors (Morgan Begg, Director of the IPA’s Legal Rights Program, and Daniel Wild, Deputy Executive Director of IPA) came to this conclusion.
They found that Australia’s Covid response, which involved some of the longest lock-downs in the world, cost $934.8 billion and resulted in 31 x more life years lost than were saved.
Australian federal, state and territory governments threw out the evidence-based Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (written in 2014 and updated by the federal department of health in August 2019) in favour of an unscientific, costly, and frankly cruel zero-covid approach. It was an abject failure. IPA’s Hard Lessons reports quantifies just how much this failure cost Australia in life years, economic terms, and in educational losses.”
I repeat Dr Lully’s comment, which is apposite:
“The most important lesson to learn from all this is the legally mandated necessity for any future pandemic-related decisions by governments to be accompanied by a CBA in support of them.”
Don’t hold your breath. An eclectic mix of ignorance, incompetence, self-protection, compliance, boot-licking and complicity is at work.