Is COVID-19 widening educational gaps in Latin America? Three lessons for urgent policy action

By Nathalie Basto-Aguirre, Paula Cerutti and Sebastián Nieto-Parra, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Classroom in Jaqueira Village, city of Porto Seguro, Brazil. Photo: Joa Souza/Shutterstock

COVID-19, like most crises, is exacerbating inequalities in the region. To contain the pandemic, most Latin American countries have closed their schools, affecting the learning of 154 million students. However, not all students are affected equally. While distance education can contribute to alleviate the immediate impacts of school closures, it requires a number of conditions to deliver meaningful results. Students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds tend to suffer the most and risk bearing lasting consequences in terms of learning outcomes and, ultimately, opportunities. In particular, three interconnected dimensions stand out. Continue reading

COVID-19 crisis: Why we must prioritise mental health of the world’s displaced

By Shaifali Sandhya, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Care Family Consultation


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Deprsession-shutterstock_332939864The modern world is in an unprecedented situation. In the last decade, the global population of the forcibly displaced has swelled to 70.8 million; with the advent of COVID-19, its numbers are expected to soar as a staggering number of refugee and asylum-seeker families find themselves further displaced by fear of disease, food insecurity and by the pressures of collapsing national economies. In many countries displaced communities’ access to labour markets is limited to the informal market, and equally vulnerable will be nations’ shadow workers – garbage workers, prostitutes, domestic help, garment makers, and gig workers. Faced with an economic crisis of cataclysmic proportions, economists and political leaders will be tempted to focus solely on the physical and economic facets of the current crisis.  But if we want to make it through this crisis, that won’t be enough.  In addition to financial and physical wellbeing we will need to recognize and address mental health around the world and at every level of society, especially of its displaced communities. We are at best, unprepared for the worst; for both OECD and developing countries, we need to provide tailored mental health treatment to those who need it in the communities they live in. Continue reading

Exceptional measures for exceptional times

By Patrick Bolton, Columbia University and Imperial College, Lee Buchheit, University of Edinburgh, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, University of California Berkeley, Mitu Gulati, Duke University, Chang-Tai Hsieh, University of Chicago, Ugo Panizza and Beatrice Weder di Mauro, The Graduate Institute Geneva*


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Development-Finance-shutterstock_524218915These are not normal times, and what the world is experiencing is not a normal recession. We propose a mechanism to implement a debt standstill for low- and middle-income countries, which would facilitate the involvement of private creditors in the restructuring, reduce potential risks of free-riding and free resources to cover some of the immediate costs of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bank of England has announced that Great Britain is entering the worst recession in 300 years, the spike in unemployment claims in the US makes unemployment claims in previous recessions look like rounding errors, and the Olympic games have been postponed. IMF forecasts predict that only 9 countries out of 190 will have positive per capita GDP growth in 2020 (and none of them will record a growth rate above 2%). To put this in context, at the peak of the global financial crisis more than 75 countries registered positive GDP per capita growth.

A downturn of this magnitude can cause tremendous long-term damage, especially so in emerging and developing economies with a high degree of informality and weaker social and economic safety nets.

While many advanced economies are able to finance massive fiscal stimulus packages with super low interest rates, emerging and developing countries are hit by a double whammy as the COVID-19 crisis has led to a sudden stop in capital flows. According to estimates by the Institute of International Finance, non-resident portfolio outflows from emerging market countries amounted to nearly $100 billion over a period of 45 days starting in late February 2020. For comparison, in the three months that followed the explosion of the Global Financial Crisis, outflows were less than $20 billion.

This situation has led more than 100 countries to seek IMF help. As explained in an April 30, 2020 Op Ed by the Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, many countries are facing a dilemma: continue to service their external debts or redirect resources to save lives and livelihoods? Continue reading

Build back better with risk-informed development co-operation

By Navid Hanif, Director, Financing for Sustainable Development Office, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs


This blog* is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Photo: Victor Balaban

Covid-19 is endangering lives and livelihoods, with devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable people. The full effects of this global pandemic are still unfolding and uncertainty remains high. Yet the impacts on our societies, economies and ecosystems will surely be felt for years to come. Now is not the time to turn away from international development co-operation. In fact, Covid-19 has graphically reinforced the need for global co-operation and collaboration, both for immediate response and for longer-term recovery. Advancing development co-operation that is both risk-informed and climate-smart will be a vital plank in the efforts to build back better.

The world was already falling behind in efforts to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and take climate action. Based on pre-crisis data, the 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development estimated that one in five countries – representing billions of people – were likely to see average income per person stagnate or decline in 2020. Many more will likely struggle as the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic hit and test countries’ resilience. Continue reading

Is there any silver lining in the COVID-19 crisis?

By Bert Hofman, Director, East Asian Institute and Professor in Practice Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University Singapore


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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The economic devastation that COVID-19 leaves in its trail is astonishing. The IMF projects that the world will fall into a deep recession, deeper than the one that followed the Global Financial Crisis.  Despite the unprecedented policy response that we have already seen, including a tripling of average fiscal deficits to almost 10 percent of GDP, and monetary loosening in similar orders of magnitude, world GDP is projected to decline by 3 percent in 2020, double the decline of 2009.

The IMF projects that low income countries would barely grow this year, only 0.4 percent compared to 5 percent last year, and 4.7 percentage points lower than projected only in January. Emerging and developing economies as a whole fare even worse: GDP is projected to decline with one percent in 2020, compared to 3.7 percent growth last year.  And all of that could be worse: the IMF’s downside scenario is far worse. Continue reading

How microeconomics can help devise evidence-based policy responses to COVID-19

By Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics at Yale University, and Faculty director of the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), and Jaya Wen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


covid-19-microeconomics-policyThe new coronavirus has already exacted a profound toll all over the world. A notable feature of COVID-19’s course is that early outbreaks occurred primarily in middle- and high-income countries, so evidence and policy guidance have been tailored for these contexts. Policymakers will need to reevaluate these approaches as the disease progresses to poor countries. Even if the ultimate objective remains protecting the quality and extent of human life everywhere, effective intermediate goals and policy approaches are context-dependent, modulated by factors like health care capacity, poverty levels, government capacity, economic informality, and the prevalence of high-density, low-infrastructure living conditions. Continue reading

COVID-19: Make health systems a global public good

By Milindo Chakrabarti, Professor, O.P. Jindal Global University and Visiting Fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)


This blog* is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide*.



health-systemPandemics are always unpredictable and, unlike natural disasters that are mostly localised, they affect countries across the globe. Within a span of less than five months, millions have been affected by COVID-19 and thousands have perished. It has taken its toll across countries irrespective of their levels of income. To more effectively prevent and fight pandemics, we must shift from a national approach to health services to investing in health as a truly global public good. This will require action on pandemic insurance, on the development of pandemic-related infrastructure, and on intellectual property rights.

COVID-19: a crisis beyond income levels

The World Bank categorizes countries in terms of their per capita income. There are 80 High Income Countries, 60 Upper Middle Income Countries, 47 Lower Middle Income Countries and 31 Low Income Countries. These four categories are often used as a proxy for a country’s overall level of development. Has COVID-19 infection and mortality rates correlated with the level of income? Continue reading