The dramatic Latin American crisis

By José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University, and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Finance Minister of Colombia


As we ring in the new year, the region needs a new development consensus, committed to reducing inequality, implementing stronger counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies, and spurring production and export diversification – including a major digital transformation. The consensus should accelerate a de-politicised regional integration, push the international environmental agenda forward and renew the region’s commitment to democracy.

The year 2020 closed with the worst economic crisis in Latin American history. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has estimated that the region’s GDP fell by 7.7%. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this is one of the worst crises in the world, similar to that of Western Europe and only surpassed by the one India has experienced. The projections of all international organisations and private analysts also indicate that the region’s economy will only partially recover in 2021. As economic growth during the quinquenium prior to the current crisis was close to zero, Latin America is immersed in a new lost decade, 2015-2024, which may be worse than that of the 1980s. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis deepens a long period of slow economic growth: 2.7% per year in 1990-2019 vs. 5.5% in 1950-1980. This is the poorest performance of any developing region in the world over the past three decades.

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Europe and Africa need to see eye to eye on climate change

By Carlos Lopes, Professor at the University of Cape Town and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Analysis, including the IPPC reports, show Africa’s vulnerability to climate change despite only accounting for 2% to 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industrial sources. Africa aspires to attain the economic and technological convergence and benefits similar to those enjoyed in the industrialised world. Other regions got to their advanced development stage at a high cost for the planet, contributing to climate change. Africans should do it differently, taking advantage of being latecomers, with the opportunity to leapfrog into green industrial and technological development. But that requires a framework of support and significant financial resources the continent lacks. It is, therefore, not surprising that Africans are becoming assertive about the need for climate justice. It is a way of demonstrating that the current climate change narrative cannot box them into adaptation and mitigation alone.

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To end a global pandemic, we need global solutions: In my view

By Gayle Smith, President and CEO, ONE Campaign


The COVID-19 crisis has put development co-operation to the test. This blog is one of the contributions by leading experts and policymakers to the OECD Development Co-operation Report 2020: Learning from Crises, Building Resilience, which draws early lessons and explores how to build systems that protect people better from global risks .

The year 2020 wasn’t supposed to be like this

Predicted by many but prepared for by few, the global pandemic that is still ravaging the planet has upended public health and killed over 1 million people. But its aftershocks are at least as daunting: stunning losses to the global economy, the disruption of worldwide commerce, growing food insecurity, education interrupted, massive job losses, and a global spike in domestic violence.

The pandemic has also laid bare the stark inequalities that still, in 2020, dictate who lives and who dies, who thrives and who suffers, which countries and communities rebound from these multiple shocks and which countries will collapse under their weight. And with the World Bank already reporting that the pandemic will push an additional 88-115 million into extreme poverty in 2020 alone, it is increasingly clear that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the world’s most vulnerable people. If nothing else, it has revealed that poverty and inequality are inextricably linked and fuelled a desire for fundamental fairness and growing anger that such fairness remains elusive.

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Middle-income countries should not be rushed to graduate

By Otaviano Canuto, Senior Fellow at the Policy Centre for the New South, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, and Former Vice President at the World Bank; Matheus Cavallari, Senior Advisor and Tiago Ribeiro dos Santos, Advisor at the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank Group. Opinions here are their own. The authors wrote chapter 12 of the recent book: Alonso, J.A. & Ocampo, J.A. (eds.), Trapped in the Middle? Developmental Challenges for Middle-Income Countries, Oxford University Press, 2020

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Many donor countries seem eager to see middle-income countries (MICs) “master out” and graduate to a non-client status in multilateral development institutions before fully achieving their development potential. We argue that such institutions can still significantly contribute to the sustainable development of MICs, while also seizing many benefits from this relationship (Middle income countries and multilateral development banks: traps on the way to graduation).  

Multilateral development banks operate in two main ways: regular lending and concessional finance. Regular lending uses interest rates close to market levels and relies on multilateral development banks’ wealth of knowledge to create attractive projects for MICs. Concessional finance on the other hand, is attractive for low-income countries, not only because of the banks’ knowledge, but also because it is much more financially favourable, offering low interest rates or grants.

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Africa has the potential to make renewable energy the engine of its growth

By Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD)

For the African continent, the stakes are twofold. While Africa is the region of the globe that contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions, it is the first to be impacted by climate change. Africa has low adaptive capacity and is highly vulnerable to climate variability and natural disasters such as droughts, floods and rising sea-levels, especially affecting low-lying coastal areas. Africa’s food and agriculture sectors are among the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, which are also exacerbating the lack of access to safe water, water stress and health risks, especially malaria, in the region.

In 1992, representatives of 172 countries met in Rio to define the basis for sustainable development and adopt a set of 27 principles on future development directions. Almost thirty years later, the state of the planet is still a cause for great concern and despite some progress, the results are not enough. The majority of climate models and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have concluded that any temperature rise above 2 to 3 degrees celsius will have negative effects on productivity in most parts of the world.

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Growth and labour markets in middle-income countries

By Rolph van der Hoeven1 International Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University, The Hague & Member of the Committee for Development Policy of the United Nations

“You can check out any time you like but you can never leave… “

It is almost as if the lyrics of the world’s best rated song ‘Hotel California’ were written for the large category of middle-income countries (MICs) as since the classification was introduced in 1992 only four2 MICs outside Eastern and Western Europe (The Republic of Korea, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina) have so far managed to ‘graduate’ to the high-income category. Are all other countries unable ‘to leave’?

To look into this, it is worth recalling that the middle-income country group is a vast one and spans countries with considerable differences in per capita income, growth rates and labour market experiences. MICs are therefore often subdivided into Lower and Higher Middle-Income country categories. To see how dynamics play out, it is therefore as important to look how countries develop within the large MIC grouping, as it is to look at the differences between those MICs that have graduated to the high-income category and those that have not.

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To measure real progress in education we must include out-of-school children

By Michael Ward, Senior Analyst, Education and Skills Directorate, OECD

In many low- and middle-income countries – including some that have participated in PISA – relatively large proportions of 15-year-olds are not enrolled in school or are not enrolled in PISA’s target grades (grade seven and above) and are thus not covered by the assessment (see figure 1). With an increasing number of low- and middle-income countries participating in PISA, and with 61 million children of lower secondary school age, out of school around the world, this population can no longer remain beyond the reach of programmes that try to evaluate the success of education systems.

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Education funding and COVID-19: what does the future hold?

By Laura Abadia, Policy Analyst, 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.


With prolonged school closures affecting over 90% of all learners worldwide at the peak of the first wave, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to explore new and more effective approaches to education delivery and content. From hybrid models that combine in-person with remote learning, to widening academic curricula to include social and emotional competencies, the opportunities for change are manifold. However, recovering from prolonged school closures and seizing these opportunities will require making significant headway against the deep structural challenges perpetuating inequalities in education.

To better understand how COVID-19 is changing education donor behaviour and priorities, the OECD Centre on Philanthropy analysed years of OECD data on official development assistance (ODA) and private philanthropy, and interviewed dozens of donors. Here is what we learned:

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Is there an institutional trap in middle-income countries?

By José Antonio Alonso, professor of Applied Economics at the Complutense University of Madrid. He is co-editor of the recent book: Trapped in the Middle? Developmental Challenges for Middle-Income Countries, Oxford University Press, 2020

It is assumed that, as countries progress, they require better institutions to manage the societal issues that emerge with more extensive and sophisticated markets and respond to the needs of a more demanding society. In other words, the development process requires a path of institutional change. However, economic and institutional processes do not necessarily evolve at the same pace, as institutions are subject to greater inertia. As a consequence, inertial institutions can fall behind social demands, or else changes in institutions may not be properly rooted in social behaviour.

These issues are particularly relevant to middle-income countries which tend to experience episodes of intense economic growth that put their institutional frameworks under pressure. Transforming expansive episodes into sustained economic convergence with high-income countries requires a continuous and successful process of institutional improvement. However, these two processes are difficult to synchronise.

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We must act now to stop the COVID crisis from undermining Africa’s energy future

By Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)


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.

We must act now to stop the Covid crisis from undermining Africa’s energy future

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause major disruptions to societies and economies around the world, and has dealt a worrying blow to years of hard-won progress in reducing the number of people in Africa who lack access to electricity. For seven years in a row, the number of Africans living without electricity has steadily decreased, thanks to efforts from governments, businesses and civil society. But this year, it is set to rise by 13 million amid the turmoil brought by the pandemic, according to IEA analysis. The worst effects are being felt in countries such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger. By putting energy services out of reach of more and more people, the crisis threatens to deepen their difficulties and those of economies across Africa.

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