Luci Ellis: Lessons and lasting effects of the pandemic

Speech by Ms Luci Ellis, Assistant Governor (Economic) of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to the Ai Group, Adelaide, 23 June 2021.

Central bank speech  | 
23 June 2021

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

– Dwight D Eisenhower

It's wonderful to be here in Adelaide, and to able to speak to the Ai Group in person. It truly has been an extraordinary time since we last came together in Geelong, back in 2019. The title of my speech that time was 'Lumps, Bumps and Waves'. Well, since then, we really have taken our lumps, seen an enormous bump, and come to dread additional waves (of the pandemic)!

The human, social and economic costs of this pandemic have been huge. The outcomes have diverged wildly from expectations. There really was no rulebook for understanding how the pandemic would play out. The possibility of a pandemic was certainly contemplated by governments, and the relevant policymakers did formulate scenarios and plans in case one emerged. But things didn't turn out like those scenarios and plans. The epidemiology of the virus that causes COVID-19 is quite different from the avian flu viruses that were usually assumed to be the relevant pathogen. The public health response was also different.

Perhaps the starkest example of things not turning out as pre-pandemic scenarios envisaged was the rapid development of effective vaccines – and not only one, but several. There have been plenty of movies about pandemics, but the rollout of multiple vaccines within a year generally hasn't featured in the final act. I doubt any studio would have bought such a script.