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.

These 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 “Exceptional measures for exceptional times”

Walking the SDG talk: Are we ready to change the way we do development?

By Doug Frantz, Deputy Secretary General, OECD


E_SDG_goals_icons-individual-rgb-17.pngThose most in need don’t care about the labels their countries are given: be it low – or middle – income, fragile or emerging, donor darling or orphan. What they care about is peace and security, having opportunities to do decent work, and providing their children with a better future.

Nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty since 1990. But for the 800 million people still living in poverty – half of them under the age of 18 – conditions are frighteningly unchanged. They have no water, sanitation or electricity. Often, because they lack services and income, they depend on informal or illicit resources to protect themselves from hunger, sickness or violence.
Continue reading “Walking the SDG talk: Are we ready to change the way we do development?”

The SDGs call for a revitalised global partnership: What should we do differently this time?

By Nicola Harrington, Deputy Director, OECD Development Centre

Partnerships were central from the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000.  Public, private and civil society entities forged ties, leading to some outstanding results. This was notable in health, where path-breaking co-operation across governments, companies and foundations improved millions of lives through medicines and vaccines. Given this track record, why do the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 15 years later require revitalising global partnerships? What was missing the first time, and what should be different now? Continue reading “The SDGs call for a revitalised global partnership: What should we do differently this time?”