Located in Prague, CERGE-EI is dedicated to excellence and innovation in economic research and education. Chartered by the State of New York, CERGE-EI is a joint workplace of Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences, and is supported by numerous donors.
Shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Czech Republic and the initial measures taken by the government, CERGE-EI's think tank IDEA launched the IDEA anti COVID-19 project to provide expert ideas and recommendations to mitigate the negative economic effects of the pandemic. Numerous faculty members, researchers, students and alumni have joined the project and are generating a multitude of policy briefs addressing various aspects of the crisis. We present a select few in the Policy Briefs section below. While most of the contributions are in Czech, there are English summaries available here.
IDEA anti COVID-19 Project - Impact and Support
Recommendations of the IDEA anti COVID-19 project have received significant coverage in the Czech media.
Four CERGE-EI faculty have been appointed to the government's Economic Advisory Team, and make up one-third of this advisory body: Jan Švejnar, who leads the team, together with Štěpán Jurajda, Filip Matějka, and Daniel Münich. Matějka was also appointed a member of the Central Crisis Committee; Švejnar and Jurajda became members of the National Economic Council (NERV). Read more.
In recognition of the importance of this project, the Experientia Foundation has donated half a million Czech crowns.
CERGE-EI Lives Online
CERGE-EI was closed on 10th March, due to a possible infection within the CERGE-EI community. All schools and universities in the country were closed the following day. Our building has remained closed to students since then. Despite this, CERGE-EI seamlessly continued to serve our students. Most classes continued online immediately; courses in the study-abroad program UPCES ran offline for one week while students were returning to the US, and have since continued online. This smooth transition was enabled by the capabilities of CERGE-EI's recently opened Digital Media Center, the development of which was funded by the Czech Academy of Sciences, Charles University, and USAID.
Teaching Fellows across the Region Move to Online Teaching
The spread of the COVID-19 virus has impacted universities globally. All of the 22 countries where CERGE-EI Foundation Teaching Fellows are based shut down universities, forcing teachers to quickly reconfigure their courses for online delivery. Fewer than 1% of the 200+ scheduled courses were cancelled. Fellows have actively shared a number of interesting findings from their first month of online sessions with each other, many which will be fed into effective course design useful not only for online but also in person course delivery.
Deadline for Applications to All Programs Extended until 30 April!
The deadline for submitting applications to all CERGE-EI study programs has been postponed until April 30th. This change also applies to the New Economic Talent competition.
Candidates interested in applying are welcome to contact the respective study offices: firstname.lastname@example.org for MA in Applied Economics, email@example.com for MA in Economic Research, and firstname.lastname@example.org for PhD in Economics. Further information for students who want to take part in the New Economic Talent competition is available here.
IDEA’s first Policy Brief put forward a strong recommendation to ‘freeze’ the economy, i.e. to immediately stop most economic activity whilst managing relationships in readiness to return to operations once the health threat has decreased. A major focus is placed on maintaining the relationships in the labor market. This Policy Brief (main text is in English) summarizes the experience in other countries in subsidizing short-time work (kurzarbeit) and analyzes the pros and cons of the Czech policy proposal.
Modelling the Epidemic for Czechia
A robust epidemiological model is a critical tool for the management of the pandemic as it allows the impact of the proposed measures to be assessed. A team of researchers is developing three epidemiological models for the Czech Republic each of which presents a different level of analysis: a national perspective, a regional perspective to allow the impact of measures at the municipal level to be predicted, and a network model of a medium-sized city which offers individual perspective. The first two models will be presented on April 21st, the third one will be released towards the end of April.
Testing, Testing, Testing
Extensive testing has been repeatedly identified as the key to success in the fight against the coronavirus. The WHO, examples from South Korea and Singapore and a number of academic articles all support this claim. IDEA anti COVID-19 contributes to the discussion by pointing out that economists can help with identifying an optimal allocation mechanism for the limited number of tests that a country has available, see this Policy Brief. An overview of how other countries address the topic is available in a related contribution.
How to Encourage People to Participate in Smart Tracing?
A successful smart quarantine system requires extensive testing capacity and the ability to effectively identify people who have come into contact with those testing positive. This Policy Brief analyzes how to motivate people to participate in smart contact tracing. Among other things, the author stresses that society really only gets one shot to get tracing right. An interview with the author on the topic is available in English. A related Policy Brief (in English) explores privacy issues in tracing using Bluetooth technology.
Communicating with the Public: Hints from Behavioral Economics
Policy success is critically dependent on the public’s trust in the government and its decisions. This trust can be supported by transparent and regular communication, ideally avoiding technical and complicated terminology. More on the topic is available in this Policy Brief. A related study provides further insights by presenting results from an experimental survey conducted via Behavio Labs. Last but not least, behavioral economics suggests how to improve people’s attention and motivation to wash their hands properly. Check it out here.