Economic growth: inclusive, green, no-cost.

Crisis response

Pandemics. Unrest. Floods. Fires. Terrorism. Quakes. Financial shocks. An economy with POEMs (Public Official E-Markets) would be poised to mobilize, relieve, contain, and recover, but also avoid.

 

 

1) Pre-emptive resources

POEMs is built around small transactions. It verifies counterparties, screens for fraud, ensures completion, and aggregates hour-by-hour purchases of labor or rental of resources into tailored, packages. That allows it to quickly pull together supply chains for needs of a crisis. Any qualified seller can enter those chains in seconds.

POEMs’ enabling legislation might mandate the right of elected officials to pre-empt market activity when a state-of-emergency is declared. So, if wildfires start, a Governor’s staff may immediately begin renting additional pumps, hoses, water tanks, and protective gear. Delivery, arrival scheduling, payment, and auditing would be automatically handled by POEMs.

A phased, easily monitored, supply chain could be converging on the afflicted area within minutes of the declaration. Simultaneously, security staff, childcare professionals, social workers, and volunteer firefighters could be mobilized and transported. Each person might be pulled from existing transactions simply because government pays more, or has legal pre-emption rights over non-vital bookings. Or pre-emption could be voluntary.

Either way, POEMs would allow emergency services to set up templates of needs for disasters. One click then starts – for example – all the buying/scheduling listed for floods in a given location. And the template can deliver a constant real-time dashboard of availability and costs of extra resources that would be needed if the river banks burst today.

 

2) Readiness for relief

Covid revealed unreadiness of today’s closed platforms for an emergency. But any public agency could turn to POEMs’ tools during an emergency. Its trove of data built up about a user is under each person or organization’s control, if they want to release their verified details to be matched with government aid, they need only tick a box for POEMs to locate and transfer any funds for which they are eligible.

Legislation enabling POEMs could compel operators to maintain readiness for an emergency. So, a turnkey operation is poised when a crisis is declared. Compare that possibility to current public infrastructure readiness for crisis as revealed by the 2020 pandemic:

  • When US Unemployment Insurance claims spiked in March 2020, multiple systems run by states crashed, forcing some users to spend  days re-entering details.
  • Puerto Ricans had to wait weeks for federal stimulus checks as government IT systems failed under load.
  • Support paid out under America’s CARES act had to be set at a one-size-fits-all $600 a week. Systems handling the transfers cannot handle escalating payment for the neediest.

Does the private sector deliver more emergency-ready infrastructure? The problem here is not antiquated systems, it’s often operators putting their own needs first, or lacking capacity:

  • After 2008, some banks used bailout funds to pay bonuses or make acquisitions.
  • US retail behemoths committed to rapidly expanding public virus testing in mid-March 2020. By early June only 4% of their stores offered the service. How much better might individual pharmacists have done in markets that assembled all resources they needed?
  • Banks held back $10bn in fees for dispersing government business loans in the US.

There have been heroic attempts to sidestep these failings. Two friends created the Greater Los Angeles Hospital Registry, a volunteer-run website on which managers can appeal for protective gear for staff. But real responsiveness to emergencies probably requires state-of-the-art, universal, economic infrastructure already in wide use.

 

3) Prompt structural change

A crisis can require a new organization. Suppose the Mayor of Minneapolis had wanted a Community Safety Taskforce (CST) when legitimacy of his Police cratered. He might decide the new force was to come from deprived zip codes and each member must have experience in the military, security, or community service, plus proven reliability.

POEMs might instantly identify 1,738 matching Minneapolitans. An offer of paid training, and work thereafter, could be in their Opportunity Feeds in minutes. POEMs’ market for sweatshirt printers could arrange uniforms. Meanwhile, the system’s Verified Voting functionality might be harnessed to profiles of candidates for a supervisory board, perhaps with 48 hours for an election. Once trained, CST wardens could be deployed in line with need, each having their own portfolio of other economic activity.

There would be political, fiscal, and inter-organizational issues. But when leaders are ready to act decisively, POEMs could make their schemes immediate, accountable, and ultra low-overhead. With the old administrative machinery for this sort of initiative no longer required, it can be short term; a fast response to events. The Mayor might decree his new force will only run for three months, with commitment to a formal review thereafter. But if citizens want to then extend, or replace, it POEMs will be ready.

This precision use of resources would contrast with – for example – Britain’s mass hiring of Covid contact tracers with many then reporting no work for them to do. Or the same government’s inability to deploy thousands of community volunteers. Anyone needing to suddenly staff up on caregivers, Social Distancing Ambassadors, mental health counsellors, or other positions, could set their requirements in terms of track record, see numbers of eligible workers, schedule induction sessions, then buy hours as needed. Assuming online inductions, a pool could go from zero to hundreds of pre-screened, ready to go, workers in a few hours.

 

4) V.F.M. responses

“Coronavirus may not be the big one” warned World Health Organization experts in December 2020, the same month it became clear 2020 was the worst year on record for extreme weather. Weeks later US public bodies were warned of nationwide domestic terrorism plans. Mind numbingly, governments may need to adapt to disasters as a new normal. Simply printing money could become untenable. POEMs could enable consistent Value For Money responses.

Here’s why:

  • Mandated readiness: Purely commercial infrastructure operators lack incentive to maintain expensive spare capacity in case there is an unexpected surge. POEMs is shaped by legislation which could mandate, for example, operators maintain 25% processing margin over the highest peak of any previous day and could power up for a 50% surge in usage within an hour. Organizing infrastructure will be dependable at times of need.
  • Buy-backs: In a pandemic, POEMs could instantly allow shuttered businesses that used face masks (veterinary surgeries, beauty parlors, cosmetic surgeons) to re-sell their stocks immediately to frontline hospitals. POEMs could prioritize each business for re-supply later. It’s faster, cheaper, and greener than government stockpiling supplies.
  • Fast trialling: Beyond modelling scenarios, POEMs could be used to cost-effectively trial schemes, regulatory changes, and stimulation of markets. Relaxed rules for food hygiene to encourage pop-up home-kitchen businesses in an afflicted area? It could be tried in one district for a week, POEMs can work out who would stand to gain the most from the new regime and alert them to a potential money-spinner instantly.
  • Inflation tamped: Sudden government spending can distort the economy in unpredicted ways. That’s a particular risk where resources are limited. Official purchases of accommodation for the homeless for instance can push up rental prices. But POEMs is uniquely equipped to attract new resources – spare rooms, annexes, attics – that take the heat off.
  • Accountability: Precision purchasing in informed markets, instantly open to any seller, should make interventions more palatable. Fraud, over-commissioning, cronyism, or failures to respond can be identified, then remedied, faster than before, or stopped by system tools. If there is paralysing dissent on issues, POEMs’ verified voting harnessed to a quick referendum would be a novel option.
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5) Avoidance of crises

A well-used POEMs would do a lot to forestall shocks. It would be running a vibrant, inclusive, broadly environmentally friendly, micro-economy with an advanced safety net. Anyone could tap POEMs’ data to compute metrics flagging emerging problems, an index tracking rental of security items in a locality for example. Vaccinations could be arranged at pop-up stations convenient to where qualifying people were working today.

In a recession, available work could easily be spread around, keeping as many as possible engaged in the legitimate labor market. If government wish, POEMs could be ready with a parallel currency and micro-banking tools. That could warn speculating financial institutions that policymakers would be relaxed about letting them fail.

And POEMs fosters on-going relationships, rather than the constant turnover that can be so profitable for private platforms. In a deep and neutral market, care facilities for example will find it easier to identify a small number of safe workers they want to use recurringly. Similarly, supply chains could become atomized and adaptable, rather than rigidly hyper-specialized around the business focus of dominant corporates.

POEMs’ granularity would enable a very localized, segmented, approach to contain any problem in its earliest stages. In a pandemic for example, part of a city with first infections could immediately have its workers advised to stay indoors, their bookings would be automatically re-assigned while at-home work options poured into their Opportunity Feeds. Support workers, vaccination stations, and meal distribution could be marshaled immediately. All this would be automatically unpicked once the local hotspot was declared safe.

 

Lifting the left-behinds