What a challenging year 2020 has been! A year of living dangerously – “Tahun vivere pericoloso”- perhaps these words of late President Soekarno of Indonesia are the best description.
Fortunately, I managed to remain sane, reading and writing op-eds (mostly about the pandemic, here
Just before the World Health Assembly (WHA), an 18 May open letter
by world leaders and experts urged governments to ensure that all COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are patent-free, fairly distributed and available to all, free of charge.
Fiscal and monetary measures needed to fight the economic downturn, largely due to COVID-19 policy responses, require more government accountability and discipline to minimise abuse. Such measures should ensure relief for the vulnerable, prevent recessions from becoming depressions, and restore progress.
COVID-19 recessions have hit most countries, requiring massive fiscal responses. While most developing countries struggled with mounting debt even before the pandemic, many developed countries also face unprecedented macroeconomic pressures despite earlier spending cuts due to ‘fiscal consolidation’ policies.
The World Bank has been leading other multilateral development banks (MDBs) and international financial institutions to press developing country governments to ‘de-risk’ infrastructure and other private, especially foreign investments.
The United Nations’ renamed World Social Report 2020
(WSR 2020) argued that income inequality is rising in most developed countries, and some middle-income countries, including China, the world’s fastest growing economy in recent decades.
While overall inter-country inequalities may have declined owing to the rapid growth of economies like China, India and East Asia, national inequalities have been growing for much of the world’s population, generating resentment.
The World Bank has finally given up defending its controversial, but influential Doing Business Report
(DBR). In August, the Bank “paused” publication of the DBR due to a “number of irregularities
” after its much criticized ranking system was exposed as fraudulent.
US third quarter GDP numbers released two weeks ago delighted stock markets and President Trump. Output had picked up by 7.4%, annualised as 33.1%, the largest quarterly economic growth on record, almost double the old record of 3.9% (annualised as 16.7%) in the first quarter of 1950, seven decades ago.
In July, the UN Secretary-General warned
that a “series of countries in insolvency might trigger a global depression”. Earlier, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had called
for a US$2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries.
After accusing the World Health Organization (WHO) of pro-China bias, President Donald Trump announced US withdrawal
from the UN agency. Although the US created the UN system for the post-Second World War new international order, Washington has often had to struggle in recent decades to ensure that it continues to serve changing US interests.
The World Bank leadership must urgently abandon its ‘Maximizing Finance for Development
’ (MFD) hoax. Instead, it should resume its traditional multilateral development bank role of mobilizing funds at minimal cost to finance developing countries.
Developing country debt has continued to grow
rapidly since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis (GFC). Warnings against debt
have been reiterated by familiar prophets of debt doom such as new World Bank chief economist, Carmen Reinhart
, once dubbed the ‘godmother of austerity
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has warned
that developing countries would need more than the earlier estimated
US$2.5 trillion to provide relief to affected families and businesses and expedite economic recovery.
With uneven progress in containing contagion, worsened by the breakdown in multilateral cooperation due to mounting US-China tensions, recovery from the Covid-19 recessions of the first half of 2020 is now expected to be more gradual than previously forecast
Pandemic response measures
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, many governments, especially of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) economies, have introduced massive fiscal and monetary packages for contagion containment, relief and recovery.
Covid-19 is expected to take a heavy human and economic toll on developing countries, not only because of contagion in the face of weak health systems, but also containment measures which have precipitated recessions, destroying and diminishing the livelihoods of many.
Announcing an independent evaluation of the global Covid-19 response on 9th July, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
asked why it has been “difficult for humans to unite and fight a common enemy that is killing people indiscriminately?”.
The recent explosion of private finance has nursed the hope
, dream or illusion that it can be mobilized for the public good, e.g., to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, associated with Agenda 2030. However, such hopes ignore how changes in financial investing have deeply transformed corporations, national economies and prospects for the world economy and social progress.
In his early February annual State of the Union address
, US President Donald Trump typically hailed his own policies for increasing wages and jobs to achieve record low US unemployment. Directly appealing to labour for a second term, Trump claimed exclusive credit for the US “blue-collar boom”.
Seventy-five years ago, on 26 June 1945, before the Japanese surrender ending the Second World War, fifty nations gathered at San Francisco’s Opera House to sign the United Nations (UN) Charter
Over the course of his presidency, US President Donald Trump’s racism
has become more evident with more leaks of his private remarks, which he has been generally quick to deny, qualify and explain away.
The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted most economies in the world. Its full impacts will not be felt, let alone measured, until it runs its course. Many countries are still struggling to contain contagion, while the costs on both lives and livelihoods will undoubtedly have long-term repercussions.