The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is adversely impacting most developing countries disproportionately, especially the United Nations’ least developed countries (LDCs) and the World Bank’s low-income countries (LICs).
Years of implementing neoliberal policy conditionalities and advice have made most developing countries much more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic by undermining their health systems and fiscal capacities to respond adequately.
Vaccine developers’ refusal to share publicly funded vaccine research findings is stalling broader, affordable vaccinations which would more rapidly contain COVID-19 contagion. The pandemic had infected at least 109 million people worldwide, causing over 2.4 million deaths as of mid-February.
Refusal to temporarily suspend several World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property (IP) provisions to enable much faster and broader progress in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic should be grounds for International Criminal Court prosecution for genocide.
Access to COVID-19 vaccines for many developing countries and most of their people will have to wait as the powerful and better off secure earlier access regardless of need or urgency. More profits, by manufacturing scarcity, will surely cause even more loss of both lives and livelihoods.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive”. Walter Scott’s lines, already over two centuries old, nicely sum up how pursuit of national advantage and private gain have undermined the public interest and the common good.
Current development fads fetishize data, ostensibly for ‘evidence-based policy-making’: if not measured, it will not matter. So, forget about getting financial resources for your work, programmes and projects, no matter how beneficial, significant or desperately needed.
Covid-19 infection and death rates in the Western world and many developing countries in Asia and Latin America have long overtaken East Asia since the second quarter of 2020. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering prevailing Western accounts of the Asian financial crises, there have been no serious efforts to draw policy lessons from East Asian contagion containment.
The incoming Biden administration is under tremendous pressure to demonstrate better US economic management. Trade negotiations normally take years to conclude, if at all. Unsurprisingly, lobbyists are already urging the next US administration to quickly embrace and deliver a new version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Goodbye 2020, but unfortunately, not good riddance, as we all have to live with its legacy. It has been a disastrous year for much of the world for various reasons, Elizabeth II’s annus horribilis
. The crisis has exposed previously unacknowledged realities, including frailties and vulnerabilities.
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.
Limited liability protection for shareholders in joint stock companies was introduced to encourage investments in them. However, it has encouraged irresponsibility, causing much harm while generating profits without responsibility.
Limited liability limits responsibility
Columbia Law School’s Professor Katarina Pistor
has extended her critique of the legal system to emphasize the implications of such limited liability. Limited liability encourages shareholders not to pay attention to the harm corporations they invest in may do.
was arguably the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century, associated with promoting ‘neo-liberal’, free-market, shareholder capitalism
Friedman’s monetarist economics is now widely considered irrelevant, if not wrong, especially with the low inflation associated with ‘unconventional’ monetary policies following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
Industrial policy – or the promotion of particular investments, technologies, industries, regions and enterprises – has been practiced by a variety of governments to try to accelerate economic growth and transformation.
Milton Friedman’s libertarian economics advocating shareholder capitalism has influenced generations trying to understand the economy, not only in the US, but all over the world.