Post-pandemic debt crisis
With the 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic came a drastic slow in economic activity and collapse in government revenue, prompting a widespread increase in both government and private debt levels. Currently, at the beginning of 2021, with no concrete prediction for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and the private sector continue to accumulate great foreign currency debt. There is a steady increase in government loans for funding and there has been at least a 20% reduction in 2020 remittances from global citizens and diasporas. Developing nations report skyrocketing borrowing needs that are usually that advanced economies can usually only manage. Additionally, central bank purchases of corporate bonds to boost the money supply of local firms have stifled the debt ratings of local firms in emerging markets and developing economies. As a result, our world is facing rising budget pressures, which a wave of sovereign debt downgrades that are likely to lead to a post-pandemic debt crisis are accompanying.

Context and the Role of the IMF

In comparison to the end of 2019, in addition to already unusually elevated figures and debt distress, expectations have determined that 2021 debt ratios will increase by 20% GDP in advanced economies, 10% in emerging market economies and 7% in low-income economies. Unfortunately, the emerging and developing world have much smaller borrowing capacities, and so for some, a post-pandemic debt crisis appears imminent.

In the past, debt crises have set the global economy into long-lasting instability. In order to prevent such an economic downfall on top of a global health crisis, many of the leading international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have prepared to help keep nations afloat. While the IMF has provided over $30 billion in emergency funding to its member countries in a response to the pandemic, it has also given direct attention to implementing measures that contribute to debt-service relief. Here are some of these measures.

4 Measures to Contribute to Debt-Service Relief

  1. Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT): Undergoing establishment in 2015 as a response to the Ebola outbreak and receiving modification in March 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic, CCRT allows the IMF to provide grant funding for debt relief to the poorest and most vulnerable nations that a natural disaster or public health crises have hit. The purpose of the CCRT is to aid eligible low-income member countries to meet the balance of payment needs that disasters create. This stops the reassigning of resources to debt service, preventing a post-pandemic debt crisis.
  2. Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI): In a collaboration between the IMF Managing Director and the President of the World Bank, a call emerged for the bilateral creditors to suspend debt service payments from the poorest member countries until the end of 2020, extended to June 2021. Accepted in April 2020, this debt suspension allows 73 low and lower-middle-income countries to temporarily receive relief from their debt service payments. In addition to releasing the countries’ resources to COVID-19 relief, this initiative prompted the International Institute of Finance (IIF) to also call for private-sector creditors to grant debt payments forbearance to their debtors in a similar way. Many private firms have volunteered to aid in debt relief as a result.
  3. Short Term Liquidity Line (SLL): With the increase in global uncertainty, the IMF has established a short-term liquidity line (SLL) with the unique design of being a liquidity backstop for its member countries who have superior policy and fundamentals, but are in need of increased immediate liquidity needs as a result of the external shocks that came with this global pandemic. This liquidity line has a lower cost structure than other typical IMF lines of liquidity such as the Flexible Credit Line (FCL). This allows for a country to retain cost savings relative to reserves, and benefits related to lower yields on public debt.
  4. Capacity Development: In addition to its financial support, the IMF is also offering real-time policy guidance and capacity development to more than 160 of its 190 member countries. This advice is for specifically navigating debt management strategies, cash management, financial supervision, cybersecurity and economic governance through the pandemic. The IMF has collaborated with tax administrations and budget officers to restore and support halted or slowed business operations. It has also launched online learning platforms available to government officials, members and the general public for the widespread reach of solutions to aid in economic recovery during and post-pandemic.

Cause for Optimism

With the measures above, as well as the collaborative effort of the entire globe, according to the IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, “the global economy is beginning to climb back from the depths of the crisis, but this calamity is far from over.”

Thankfully, the IMF continues to show its commitment to providing financial support, capacity development and debt relief, especially for its poorest, most affected and vulnerable member countries in this unprecedented time, as the world works to stave off an impending debt crisis.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Kamala Harris' Foreign PolicyJoe Biden’s Vice President pick, Kamala Harris, is a new player when it comes to foreign aid and international relief. A strong arm with U.S./Mexico relations and domestic advocacy, Harris has some experience with addressing poverty. However, the question remains: what could this potential vice-presidential elect bring to the global table? This article will focus on Kamala Harris’ foreign policy. Specifically, her previous commitments to international humanitarian issues and what she outlines as her future focus.

Global Problems, Smart Diplomacy

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy, first and foremost, centers around a single axiom: “Smart diplomacy”. Harris is committed to preventing global conflict and believes that the U.S. is most successful when it stands in support of its global allies. She is an advocate for the ending the conflict in the Middle East, the deconstruction of nuclear arsenals and humanitarian relief efforts in Syria. Furthermore, Harris holds a staunch position on international threats. Abstractly, Harris’ policy could perhaps be described as proactive, rather than strictly reactionary. Regarding the human and financial toll that war often brings, Harris has been vocal and understands the direct correlation between conflict and economic instability. She hopes to reduce both.

Women of the World

As a freshman senator, one of the keystones of Harris’ policy focused on enriching the lives of women across the globe. In this vein, a (paraphrased) statement, “when women do better, we all do better” reflects this aspect of her policy. Harris recently co-sponsored the bill “Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act of 2020” (s.4003). This legislation’s aim is at reducing gender-based violence and providing sustained, humanitarian support for at-risk women. It is no secret that when destitute women have access to resources, agency and support — their communities flourish.

COVID-19, the Future and Cooperation

Kamala Harris is vocal when it comes to domestic COVID-19 relief. However, that is not to say that she has neglected the global perspective. Harris’ collaboration of the resolution s.res.579 illuminates her stance on what the U.S. needs to accomplish on the global stage. I.e., continued international support, cooperation with scientists across the globe to combat the new coronavirus and relief packages aimed at poorer communities and countries. Kamala Harris also introduced the “Improving Pandemic Preparedness and Response Through Diplomacy Act” (s.4118). This is a comprehensive bill that looks to the future of pandemic response and what will be done to combat and recover from future global pandemics. Notably, Harris’ foreign policy could potentially incorporate such radical legislation.

Africa and Beyond

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy regarding Africa is one that recognizes the continent’s diversity, potential and struggles. Harris has made statements advocating for strengthening diplomatic relationships with all of Africa to “foster shared prosperity” and “ensure global security in the near future”. Harris has also opposed reduced, foreign assistance to Central and South America. Instead, she advocates for greater investments in tackling the root issues of destabilization in Southern America.

Kamala’s Co-Sponsorships

Here is a collated list that takes a deeper look into what Kamala Harris has co-sponsored in recent years:

  1. No War Against Iran Act (s.3159): A bill proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-VT] that would prohibit further expenditures and military activity in Iran.
  2. Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy (s.2565): A bill proposed by Sen. Edward J. Markey [D-MA] created in hopes to address a future affected by climate change and the displacement of climate-refugees.
  3. International Climate Accountability Act (s.1743): A bill, sponsored by Jeanne Shaheen [D-NH] to prevent the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.
  4. Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2019 (s.1186): Legislation proposed by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin [D-MD] to both address and aid the humanitarian crisis in Burma (Myanmar).

The Outlook, TBD

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy, in principle, is burgeoning but spells positivity and action for tackling some of the world’s greatest issues. Carefully cultivated, diplomatic relationships, pandemic relief and response legislation and a fresh outlook on familiar problems may be a positive step forward.

Henry Comes-Prichett
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Vietnam's COVID-19 response
COVID-19 has presented the world with new problems, set against the backdrop of a globalized economy. Some nations have opted for strict shutdowns, while others have taken a more gradual approach via staged lockdowns. Regardless of the initial steps taken, nations have seen astronomical numbers of new coronavirus infections. Some nations have been able to control outbreaks better than others. Vietnam’s COVID-19 response won praise from the World Health Organization for its swift implementation and effectiveness. Regardless of a relatively low GDP and proximity to China, Vietnam was able to keep COVID-19 cases below 300 while other nations surged in April 2020.

Early Response

After nations throughout Southeast Asia and other locations around the world began reporting cases, Vietnam’s COVID-19 response (initially) was to issue a nation-wide address to quell the spread. These regulations, though extensive, were quite effective. Vietnam fell victim to both the SARS outbreak of 2003 and the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. These experiences meant the government was on high alert, as soon as reports began to trickle out of Wuhan, China in January 2020.

Part of their methodology included banning all flights, either domestic or international. This helped to reduce travel between nations as well as between different areas of Vietnam. Additionally, the government has placed more than 44,000 people in quarantine camps. Also, Vietnam’s COVID-19 response included widespread economic shutdowns to decrease person-to-person contact. While these measures were effective in reducing the number of cases, it has taken an economic toll on the markets around Vietnam.

Complications

The nation overall is well below the world’s average GDP, coming in at $261 per capita. This indicates that the Vietnamese economy will be less flexible when placed under economic stress. While these widespread restrictions and quarantines are effective at limiting exposure to the virus — economic ramifications accompany them as well. According to the Vietnamese Labor Ministry, 7.8 million people have been left unemployed as a result of the pandemic.

Amid economic pressure, the government and people are coming together to help move past these hard times. NPR reports that some entrepreneurs within cities have established “rice ATMs” to ensure that all people can access food, regardless of income. In addition to an economic toll, a second wave of the virus is also threatening the Vietnamese people. Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in March — Vietnam was able to avoid community spread through the early measures it took. In mid-July 2020, the nation still has no evidence of community transmission. However, in late July 2020, more cases began cropping up to bring the nation’s case count up to 867 cases. This represents an increase of more than 600 cases and the nation’s first 10 COVID-19 deaths accompanying them.

These cases are a warning to the nation about how easy the virus spreads. Regardless, the nation is responding swiftly and responsibly as 80,000 visitors have already flown out of Danang as the city shut down once again to prevent more infections.

The Takeaway

The Vietnamese COVID-19 response began with strong policies to protect its citizens against COVID-19. Though these restrictions posed economic challenges, the nation was able to shelter those who posed a risk in reportedly well-maintained and staffed quarantine camps while other citizens worked to ensure those who faced lay-offs were still able to feed themselves and their families. The spike in cases is indicative that the pandemic, though controlled, is not over.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in ChileChile is a small, narrow country in South America blessed with magnificent mountains and gorgeous Pacific Ocean views that attract tourists from all over the world. The World Bank estimates that Chile has a higher life expectancy than the United States and classifies it as a high-income country despite its many impoverished regions. Like many other countries, however, Chile has experienced substantial economic distress in the wake of COVID-19 due to the high infection rates. In fact, Chile has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world with more than 364,000 confirmed cases as of 5 August 2020 in a population of only 18.7 million. Fortunately, in an effort to quickly recover from the crisis, the National Police formulated an unconventional, yet clever plan to combat COVID-19 in Chile.

Poverty & COVID-19 in Chile

Confirmed cases in Chile have steadily risen since May, beginning in high-income neighborhoods and slowly infiltrating low-income communities where the virus has caused the most damage.  The country has remained under a national state of emergency since mid-March and is now experiencing Phase 4 of the outbreak, which includes “uncontrolled and widespread community transmission,” forced quarantine in some areas and even a nationwide curfew. The Chilean government closed the country’s borders on 18 March 2020 to all tourists, cruise ships and other unnecessary traffic, excluding citizens and permanent residents who must be quarantined for 14 days upon re-entrance.

Tourism prevention has been particularly harmful to Chile’s economy since the country shut down in March. The country was named the 2017 Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in the World with more than 5.6 million people visiting each year, a group that has consistently stimulated the economy by nearly 13% annually. Jorge Rodriguez, Chile’s Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism stresses that tourism “is strategic for the growth of Chile,”  but COVID-19 is decelerating the progress tourism has made in the last decade.

The World Bank identifies Chile as one of Latin America’s “most unequal countries” because there are two socioeconomic extremes: incredibly impoverished or wonderfully wealthy. There is no middle class, forcing socioeconomic status to determine whether a person hopelessly struggles under government dependence or flourishes in their own monetary independence. Because people living in poverty must rely on assistance from the government, poor Chileans are suffering now more than ever as COVID-19 devastates the economy.

Retrievers to the Rescue

Luckily, the Chilean government, in partnership with the Catholic University of Chile, has constructed a strategic recovery plan that relies on retrievers. Chile’s National Police has embarked on a journey to teach K-9s to find COVID-19 in crowds. Three highly trained pups, with experience in drug and bomb detection, are learning to sniff out human odors specifically emitted by prospective patients.  COVID-19 itself does not have an odor, but minor metabolic changes can be detected as well as “volatile organic compounds” according to Fernando Mardones, professor and epidemiologist at the Catholic University of Chile. Those distinct markers enable the K-9s to intelligently track and discover people who are either asymptomatic or just entering the earliest stages of infection. Once a target is located, the “bio-detector dogs” do not scratch or use their killer bites. They simply sit by the COVID-19 carrier for discrete identification that prevents panic.

K-9s to Conquer COVID-19

The program currently remains in pilot stages but should be fully implemented by mid-September where the K-9s will be immediately deployed to high population centers. By the end of the training, one K-9 will be able to search more than 250 people in one hour with more than 95% accuracy. After the K-9s successfully memorize how to detect the virus in humans and remove COVID-19 patients from densely populated areas, confirmed case numbers in Chile should steadily decline. The country will then be able to reopen its ports and borders. Reestablishing its rightful place as one of the world’s most sought after tourism destinations will allow the economy to heal as travelers renew their plans to enjoy Chile’s beautiful scenery and exhilarating adventure sites.

Economic stability boosted by tourism revitalization will ease the concerns of people in poverty because the government will return to adequately assisting low-income regions as it did before COVID-19. Hopefully, extinguishing the virus in Chile will begin to bridge the gap between the country’s seemingly untouchable upper class and its disadvantaged lower class, giving impoverished people a chance to thrive.

-Natalie Clark
Photo: Unsplash

Women and Pandemics
Most healthcare workers on the front lines are female, but there is another pandemic that plagues women during times of health crises: gender inequality. Epidemics and pandemics further gender inequality as women struggle socioeconomically and in healthcare. Gender equality can combat world poverty, but diseases can slow societal advancement for women.

Society and the Economy

Globally, 740 million women work low-paid and informal jobs, which they are quick to lose during pandemics and epidemics. The livelihoods of women are at risk with an increase in job insecurity and job loss during times of crisis. During the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, closed borders caused women to face much higher unemployment rates than men since 85% of cross-border traders are women.

In the developing world, 70% of women work informal jobs, but women’s unpaid labor boosts global economies and should not be ignored. According to the United Nations Foundation, “women on average do three times more unpaid care work than men.” Women who work to care for their families bring in $1.5 trillion to the world GDP. Jobs without pay create even more inequality as women stay at home, complete domestic tasks and care for the sick. The burden of caring for the ill in the family puts women at a greater risk of falling ill. More West African women were affected by Ebola because they worked in hospitals or aided the sick at home.

A shelter-in-place due to pandemics can result in girls dropping out of school and puts women at a higher risk for violence. As seen from the Ebola outbreak, closures of schools put young girls at high risk for pregnancy and child marriage. During country-wide lockdowns in 2020, women have to remain with their abusers. Domestic violence against women tripled in China and increased by 30% in France. Even more shocking, some use the exposure of COVID-19 as a means of suppression against women.

Healthcare

Although 70% of health workers are women, men make most of the decisions in the healthcare sector. Only 27% of women are executives in world healthcare. This gender segregation in healthcare leaves women in lower roles and creates a bias towards men. Personal protective equipment uses male sizes and thus does not protect female workers as effectively. In Spain, 5,265 out of 7,329 health workers infected by COVID-19 were women. Data collection may ignore gender in some studies, which makes it harder to understand the current trends and how they affect women.

While most healthcare resources are focused on fighting pandemics, women’s health may be overlooked. More women in Sierra Leone died from obstetric complications than from Ebola. COVID-19 will likely cause 18 million women to not be able to acquire contraceptives in Central and South America. Providing fewer health services during pandemics has detrimental effects on women’s health.

Operation 50/50

Pandemics affect both men and women, but 80% of the WHO Emergency Committee on COVID-19 are men. In order to provide women with more representation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations has created the campaign Operation 50/50. The campaign aims to accomplish five goals: recruiting more women for leadership roles, valuing women’s unpaid care work, providing better conditions for health care workers, utilizing gender attentive data and funding NGOs for women. Around the world, women have a high risk of exposure to disease, whether that be in the healthcare field or staying at home with the sick. Elimination of gender inequality in healthcare will increase safety for women during global pandemics.

Hannah Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

lessons from past pandemics
There are several lessons from past pandemics that apply to COVID-19 prevention today. With the rise of COVID-19, it is particularly important to look back at history to prevent similar detrimental results.

Spanish Flu and Social Distancing

One of the main lessons from past pandemics such as the Spanish Flu is that social distancing works. With cities around the world such as San Fransisco ordering social distancing, this lesson is as pertinent as ever. In 1918, Philadelphia threw a parade to support soldiers fighting in WWI that drew a crowd of 200,000 people. Just three days later, every bed in Philidalphia’s 31 hospitals comprised of people infected with the flu. Unfortunately, despite Philadelphia’s enforcement of social distancing after the infection rate rapidly increased, this response was too late.

St. Louis, on the other hand, was more proactive with enforcing city-wide social distancing regulations. Within just two days of detecting the first cases of the flu in St. Louis residents, the city enforced social distancing measures. This resulted in less than half of the flu’s death toll than in Philadelphia.

Social distancing is not just about staying away from others when ill but also about reducing the chances of becoming a carrier of the disease. Several people might have coronavirus and not even know it as only 19 percent of confirmed cases of COVID-19 become critical. Because of this, it is important to stick to social distancing regulations as much as possible.

HIV/AIDS and the Deadliness of Social Stigma

The ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic faces a great amount of social stigma that has lead to insufficient government prevention methods. This stigma is due to discriminatory views that the virus infects those who are gay or drug addicts who use intravenous drugs.

Though governments are more responsive today, when the HIV/AIDS pandemic first arose, many including the U.S. were late to respond due to this stigma. This resulted in many protests and, eventually, the government became more responsive.

One of the main lessons from the HIV/AIDS pandemic that one can apply to the COVID-19 outbreak is the fatal impact of social stigma. There are several discriminatory sentiments toward the Asian community right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. This stigma has led to a rise in hate crimes. People of Asian descent are not the only community capable of suffering an infection from this virus, and discrimination towards them can be deadly just as the case with those that the HIV/AIDS pandemic affected.

Small Pox and Global Cooperation

The World Health Organization (WHO) ran a vaccination campaign to eradicate smallpox from 1966-1977. It jumped through many government hoops in order to run the campaign, which was eventually successful. The current coronavirus outbreak will require similar action. Following government orders and keeping up with guidelines and news from the CDC and WHO will greatly help with global cooperation to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A critical issue that requires immediate and rapid cooperation is the stocking up of medical masks and other medical supplies such as hand sanitizer in a frenzy. While buying these supplies might seem helpful at the moment, it is actually having consequential effects. Doctors have reported shortages of masks that could lead to a dire situation if buying habits like this continue. Additionally, reports state that masks for healthy people are ineffective as a means of prevention.

Another form of cooperation that will help prevent those that the virus affects is joining local activist coalitions in helping those vulnerable to COVID-19, such as unemployed or food insecure individuals. In Seattle, COVID-19 Mutual Aid is a coalition that is helping out in solidarity with those most vulnerable. One can obtain further information about its work by visiting its Instagram page.

Hope for the Future

Social distancing, destigmatization and global cooperation are key lessons from past pandemics that easily apply to COVID-19. Not only learning but applying these lessons to the current pandemic is key to beating this virus.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Pixabay