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COVID-19 shows we need to strengthen social protections

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One question which COVID-19 has brought to the fore is whether global pandemics are random events, beyond anyone’s control, part and parcel of living in a hyperconnected, nonlinear world. Or do they, in fact, reflect failures of governance, manifesting multiple weaknesses in our economic, social, political and environmental systems, which put our future at risk? And, if the latter, what can we do to mitigate them in the future, given the huge costs?  Where do we stand? The economic impact of COVID-19 is beyond what most of us have seen in our lifetimes. We thought of the global financial crisis in 2008–09 as having been the most disruptive wealth-destroying event of the past 80 years; but global GDP in 2009 actually contracted by “only” 0.1 percent. There were, of course, sharp regional variations, with the advanced economies being the most affected—see table below—but already by 2010, every region of the world was in a robust phase of recovery. GDP growth rates in 2020, however, are…

Responding to COVID-19: Priorities Now and Preparing for the Future

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What have we done so far and what are some of the early lessons? Some thoughts on these two vital questions follow.

The crisis now The COVID-19 crisis is the largest shock to the global economy since the 2008–09 global financial crisis, maybe since the Great Depression of the early 1930s. To avoid overwhelming their health care systems, governments have sought to slow down the spread of the virus by implementing various suppression policies. They have made the case that social distancing measures are central to these efforts, as shown by the recent experience of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, where various combinations of lockdowns, testing and contact tracing appear to have slowed down the rate of infections. The shocks to the economy have been multiple and mutually reinforcing. Business closures, travel bans and other transportation disruptions have undermined consumer spending and business confidence and could lead to a sharp increase in bankruptcies. Dismissals, layoffs, shortened work…

Latin America under Fire! What is to Be Done?

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The past few months have witnessed violent demonstrations in several Latin American countries, including Chile, the only country from the region (other than Mexico) to have joined the OECD, the rich-country club. Moises Naim and Brian Winter recently published a thoughtful article in Foreign Affairs, titled “Why Latin America Was Primed to Explode”(October 29), in which they make a strong case that following the commodity boom of the early part of the previous decade the recent past has seen a sharp deceleration of economic growth. “Against the backdrop of stagnating wages and rising costs of living, indignities such as inequality and corruption have become more difficult for many people to swallow,” they persuasively argue. I put forward here some reflections on the economic growth debate and what this means for Latin America.
What about economic growth?

Economists—I am one of them—have long studied and argued about the sources and consequences of economic growth. The great development…