The unreal dichotomy in COVID-19 mortality between high-income and developing countries

By Philip Schellekens, Senior Economic Advisor to the Office of the CEO – International Finance Corporation, and Diego Sourrouille, Financial Sector Analyst, Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice – World Bank


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: Brookings.edu – Reuetrs \ Marko Djurica

Here’s a striking statistic: Low-income and lower-middle income countries (LICs and LMICs) account for almost half of the global population but they make up only 2 percent of the global death toll attributed to COVID-19. We think this difference is unreal.

Views about the severity of the pandemic have evolved a lot since its outbreak in Wuhan. First, we thought it was just China. But in a matter of weeks, 3.5 million people in 210 countries and territories had become infected. A local epidemic became a full-scale pandemic, entire countries were locked down, and now the world faces the prospect of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Will we soon have to adjust our views again? Will the burden of COVID-19 mortality soon travel in a different direction? Will new epicenters emerge outside of the high-income world? Is this just the beginning for the developing world? To begin addressing these questions, it is useful to first analyze the reported data and get a better feel for the contrasts and inequalities. 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

COVID-19 and labour markets in Latin America: How to repair the damage?

By José Manuel Salazar Xirinachs, Former Regional Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for Latin America and the Caribbean, and former Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica


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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Lima, Peru – April 7, 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

The damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global lockdown crisis will be devastating, causing the worst disruption to labour markets in Latin America since the Great Depression. Up to 43 million people – probably more – could be unemployed in 2020. Tragically, the state of labour markets in the region was bad even before the crisis. Repairing the damage while addressing past structural legacies is possible, but it will be slow and challenging, and will require something most countries in the region have not done well in the past: a massive focus on microeconomic policies for accelerated productive transformation, and technological and human talent development.

The damage has only just begun and is still evolving, but already looks severe. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates a contraction for the region of -5.3%, the IMF of -5.2%, and the World Bank of -4.6%. All projections now point to severe recessions in all countries in the region. 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

Face au COVID-19, les leçons d’Ebola et du secteur minier en Guinée

Par Nava Touré, Conseiller principal auprès du Ministre des Mines et de la Géologie, République de Guinée, et Ruya Perincek, Analyste des politiques, Ressources naturelles pour le développement, Centre de développement de l’OCDE


Ce blog fait partie d’une série sur la lutte contre le COVID-19 dans les pays en voie de développement. Visitez la page dédiée de l’OCDE pour accéder aux données, analyses et recommandations de l’OCDE sur les impacts sanitaires, économiques, financiers et sociétaux de COVID-19 dans le monde.


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Photo : Shutterstock

Alors que les pays à travers le monde, connaissent des réponses diversifiées à la pandémie de COVID-19 et anticipent des conséquences économiques sévères, la Guinée s’appuie essentiellement sur l’organisation qui a fait ses preuves pendant l’épidémie d’Ébola de 2014-2015 : des structures institutionnelles pour répondre aux crises sanitaires, en collaboration avec les partenaires internationaux et le secteur minier qui joue un rôle important dans l’économie nationale.  Cette expérience dans la réponse aux crises sanitaires et les mécanismes établis dans les contrats et conventions minières pour le contrôle des revenus tirés par l’État pourraient mettre le pays dans une meilleure position par rapport à d’autres pays en développement pour la riposte au COVID-19 et à la crise économique.

Continue reading

Accelerating the response to COVID-19: what does Africa need?

By Annalisa Primi, Head, Structural Policies and Innovation, OECD Development Centre, and Stephen Karingi, Director, Regional Integration and Trade, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and with Lily Sommer, Wafa Aidi, ECA, Vasiliki Mavroeidi, Manuel Toselli, 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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Africa is at high risk. The most externally oriented economies, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria account for 52% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases (32,979 as of April 28th). The continent lacks adequate healthcare systems. Hospital capacity is weak with 0.3 beds per 1,000 people in Senegal and 2.8 in South Africa, versus 6.5 in France and 8.3 in Germany. The continent is highly dependent on imports of medical supplies: 94% come from countries that have been hard hit by the pandemic, many of which are now limiting exports to ensure domestic provision of critical equipment. The pandemic magnifies the continent’s structural weaknesses, which make self-isolation and lockdown measures costly and hard to implement: 60% of the world’s poorest people live in Africa and the majority of the workforce is informal. The digital gap hampers telework and automation and governments are not able to mobilise investments at the scale needed to secure all citizens. African governments have taken important steps already, also building on lessons learnt in previous pandemic outbreaks. But the challenge is unprecedented: a global solidarity deal is needed. Continue reading