COVID stats in one newsletter, 'Community' isn't always the answer, Aid transparency, and more

Posted on 30 June 2020

+ COVID takes hold in the poorest countries 

COVID-19 is now taking off in developing countries, and the consequences could be devastating. In this newsletter we attempt to capture recent data on the situation in developing countries in one place.

For the first time this century, global poverty is on the rise.

Economists predict that this could be the largest global recessions since 1871. Never before have so many economies been impacted at the same time.

But COVID has yet to really take hold in some of the poorest countries. Unfortunately that appears to be changing.

"Developing countries now account for three-quarters of the 100,000 daily new coronavirus cases that authorities around the world are reporting. The steady rise is alarming, according to the World Health Organization, as many epidemiologists say they think the figures are being underreported," says Jamie Dettmer at VOA News

Developing and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are likely months from their peaks, health officials fear.

+ Some key statistics: COVID in developing countries  

To date, the effects of lockdowns have caused more damage than the disease itself.
  • Oxfam warns that COVID-19 could push half a billion people  into poverty 
  • That's 8 per cent of the world's population and a drop of 20% in people's income
  • This adds to the more than 600 million people already living under such conditions, and whose incomes will also be affected.
  • 1.6 billion people working in the informal sector including the gig economy are estimated to lose their incomes, many of whom lack access to any form of social protection.
  • This is the first growth in extreme poverty since 1998 when the Asian financial crisis hit.
  • Isolation and lockdowns are impacting on food security. 
  • Famines will increase. The number of people in the world with acute hunger will double.
  • The United Nations World Food Program, along with other organizations, released a report in April indicating that more than 130 million people will suffer acute food insecurity by the end of the year bringing the world total to 265 million.
  • Much of this will take place in India and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The UN warns that $2.5 trillion is needed to support developing countries through the crisis.
  • Up to 30 years of progress in reducing poverty could be wiped out.
  • International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the loss of more than 300 million full-time jobs.
  • Health systems are weak. According to the World Health Organisation, the US had 170,000 respirators in mid-March. A month later, 41 African countries together had fewer than 2,000, and ten had none.
  • In some Pacific countries, there are only 1 or 2 ICU beds.
  • Remittances (worth more than three times aid budgets, and in 2019 even exceeded the amount of Foreign Direct Investment received by low and middle-income countries) have fallen by at least 20%. 
  • This global decline may amount to more than $100 billion.

+ Impact of COVID on the Pacific

In the Pacific, the impact so far is on jobs and incomes.

"Pacific economies are largely reliant on tourism. With this industry essentially coming to a halt, and no social welfare systems to rely on, people in Pacific countries are facing unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty," writes the Fred Hollows Foundation.

In some Pacific countries, for example, the Cook Islands, tourism accounts for over 70% of GDP. In most others, it is as least 40%.

“Economies such as Fiji, the Maldives and Tonga are heavily dependent on tourism, with shares of tourism in total exports reaching 52, 84 or 47 per cent respectively,' says a recent Asia Pacific Report.

“In many Asia and Pacific countries, more than three in four workers in the tourism sector are informal jobs, leaving them especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis."

Thousands of jobs have already been lost, with resorts and hotels closing in Fiji, the Cook Islands and Samoa, countries where tourism makes up more than half the economy, reports RNZ News.

+ Children particularly vulnerable

Even though the impact of the virus affects older people disproportionally and the one thing developing countries have going for them is young populations, the economic impact of lockdowns will be felt mostly by children, reports World Vision in its 'After Shocks' reports, here and here. 

  • Secondary impacts will threaten many more children’s lives than COVID-19 itself.
  • Up to 30 million children’s lives are in danger from secondary health impacts such as deadly diseases like malaria, a lack of immunisation, or increased malnutrition, as health systems are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
  • Up to 85 million more girls and boys worldwide may be exposed to physical, sexual and/or emotional violence over three months as a result of COVID-19 quarantine.
  • As many as 13 million extra child marriages predicted by UNFPA will occur in the years immediately following the crises, with at least four million more girls married in the next two years.
  • A national assessment supported by World Vision and coalition partners in Bangladesh revealed beatings by parents or guardians had increased by 42% and that there was a 40% increase of calls to the child helpline.
  • 80 per cent of children in developing countries have been out of school since COVID says the Group of 20 


+ When the cure is worse than the disease?

For children, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease. In some countries, that will be true for most people.

You can listen to a podcast we did with Bjorn Lomborg on the trade-offs between COVID lockdowns and keeping people at work in developing countries. 

"Cost-benefit analysis is not some sort of cold-hearted  - 'money is more important than people' - Its actually a very compassionate way to make sure we don’t focus on things that only get on the front pages of papers, but we actually focus on the solutions that will help the most people for the least money first,'" he says.

He compares the costs and benefits (in the Economist Magazine and other outlets) of preventing deaths from HIV-AIDS in Malawi where an estimated 4000 people could be saved from HIV AIDS for every one saved from coronavirus.

Isolation measures threaten the food security of millions of people. This means that even if the epidemic is successfully managed at the health level, the impact on economies – and people – will be devastating, writes The Conversation.

"Expectations of weak future growth discourage investment and so become self-fulfilling. Long periods of unemployment cause loss of skills and may permanently deter workers from seeking jobs. Countless companies will disappear forever, warns Martin Wolf in the Financial Times.

"Output is quite likely not to recover to 2019 levels before 2022 in emerging and developing countries. It will not return to levels implied by a continuation of pre-pandemic growth until well after then, if ever.

"The impact on their economies is unlikely to be brief. Many economies and billions of people are likely to be scarred. This might be the beginning of many lost years, or even worse, for multitudes.....Many may die of maladies unrelated to the pandemic. The education of many children may be permanently damaged." he says.


+ What can we do? 

Listen to local people and let them lead the prioritisation.

We know from PIANGO and our Pacific partners that the priorities are:

  • Food security and water quality
  • Support for small producers and micro-finance businesses to transition fro tourism to primary produce
  • Digital connectivity - to support health and education and to help small producers reach markets
  • Build up health systems 
  • COVID border controls in place to open borders
  • Support for due diligence policies and processes (so Pacific organisations can partner with other donors)
  • Support for transparency of where local government funds spent.

Globally we need to keep the pressure on for debt relief:

  • Since 2010, the debt of developing economies has increased by an average of 54% due to low-interest rates, reaching a historical debt of 170% of GDP by 2018.
  • Debt relief for the 76 International Development Association countries needs to be scaled up radically to include relief by bilateral, multilateral, and private creditors until the end of 2021, and operationalized with urgency.
  • Multilateral creditors must demonstrate that they are providing net new lending in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Time is running out for the voluntary process for private creditors coordinated by the Institute of International Finance, and a new binding approach now needs to be considered.

Aid levels must be maintained or increased:

  • Oxfam NZ is leading a campaign to call for an increase in New Zealand's aid 
  • The IMF has argued that emerging and developing countries need $2.5 trillion, far more than now available.
  • The IMF, the World Bank, and regional development banks should raise their lending and grant ceilings.
Support for refugees is more important than ever:
  • G20 countries should support the UN’s appeal for support for refugees, displaced persons, and others who rely on humanitarian aid.

"When future generations look back at this crisis, will they view it as a decisive turning point and, if so, in which direction? Will they conclude that we understood that a pandemic is a shared crisis needing an effective and co-operative response? Or will they conclude, instead, that we allowed our capacity for co-operation and the fragile progress of economic development to wither away?" says Martin Wolf in the Financial Times.

"We do not know their answer. That depends on what we now decide. We know what we should do: act, together."


+ When 'community' is not a sustainable answer

A survey of businesses across the region found that one every four Pacific businesses is not confident they will survive the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, writes Ben Doherty on The Guardian.

While the Pacific has not seen widespread coronavirus infections, the shutting of international borders has paralysed economies and devastated household incomes, especially those related to the tourism and hospitality industries.

In Fiji, for example, because of the severe distress the pandemic is putting on many families, police are now receiving hundreds of reports of crop theft every day.

Shamima Ali, from the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, said that Fijians were resilient and would help each other through the crisis “but we must stop romanticising the Fijian way of life, the traditional mechanisms”...

"A lot of people are surviving because of the love that we have for each other, but how long is that going to last? We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat".

According to the survey, the top 3 challenges Pacific businesses are facing as a result of COVID-19 remain unchanged:

  • Not knowing how long the crisis will last (93%).
  • Impact of closed international borders (90%).
  • Poor cash flow (90%)

+ Webinar: COVID and intensifying geopolitics in the Pacific 

The strategic importance of the Pacific has increased as both China and the US have sought to deepen economic and diplomatic ties with island nations in the region.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Pacific, Chinese embassies in multiple Pacific islands have shared medical advice and pledged donations, viewed by some as an attempt by Beijing to deepen its influence in the region.

At this webinar, speakers will assess what impact the outbreak of COVID-19 has had on the Pacific region, and to what extent it has precipitated geopolitical tensions.

How are Pacific island countries responding to these geopolitical shifts?

And how will this impact on the strategic outlooks of Australia, New Zealand and the US, as well as other actors in the region? 

Register here.


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+ Aid transparency: 2020 global trends

The 2020 edition of the PWYF (Publish What You Fund) report was released last week reporting rankings of transparency for large aid donors.

This Aid Transparency Index shows for the year 2020 a significant improvement in the overall transparency of all donors. Compared to the last edition of 2018, in fact, more than half of the 47 donors evaluated are positioned today in the category "good" or "very good". Donors in the latter category went from 7 in 2018 to 11 this year, while for the "good" category the number increased by two, reaching 15 entities.

All donors, with the exception of those classified in the "very poor" category, now publish the data related to their activities and policies in IATI format, which means that their information is open, punctual, comparable and centralised, and compliant with the international standard for transparency of aid.

However, only a minority of donors publish the results obtained by their activities, and this is effectively limiting the ability of interested parties to evaluate the effectiveness and value of their aid expenditure.

In the box 3 (page 17) of the report, you can find a case-study on MFAT, titled 'How did New Zealand improve its aid transparency?', explaining how New Zealand passed from an overall score of 31.1 in the 2018 report to a 2020 score of 77.6 which positions the country at the 13th place globally.

+ Automation intensifies COVID-19 impact 

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has issued a new policy brief titled ‘COVID-19, 4IR and the Future of Work’ which outlines how COVID-19 will accelerate the adoption of automation by firms and organizations across the region.
Companies are having to consider and deploy automation due to constraints to labour supply, caused by movement restrictions, both domestically and globally, as well as the withdrawal of workers who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions.
This likelihood is further influenced by relief measures launched by governments to cushion the impact of COVID-19. Lower interest rates and subsidies for going digital also provide incentives for more firms to automate business processes.
The unintended impact of this scenario is the risk of certain jobs being eliminated, and this in turn presents the potential to exacerbate unemployment rates and economic hardships around the region.
The report calls on APEC policymakers to:

  • conduct a thorough risk assessment of jobs that may be impacted or eliminated by automation
  • understand the challenges faced by workers and the unforeseen impacts of crisis-response policies
  • strengthen and expand social protection policies to protect workers and provide income security.
  • collaborate closely with the private sector to monitor automation trends and support the need for workforce upskilling and retraining.

The report is available here.

+ SDGs – best option to recover better from COVID-19

COVID-19 has so far claimed close to half a million lives.

Global GDP is expected to contract by 5.2 percent in 2020, the largest contraction in economic activity since the Great Depression, and much worse than the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

A new United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) policy brief, titled ‘Achieving the SDGs through the COVID-19 response and recovery’, outlines how countries will be better placed to recover from the human and economic devastation caused by COVID-19 by accelerating efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The brief indicates:

  • how key the SDGs are for building resilience against shocks and avoiding backslides into poverty
  • strategic objectives are common across countries
  • how achieving the SDGs ‘requires both greater coherence and coordination of national actions, as well as a reinvigorated global partnership for development (SDG17)’.

The policy brief is available here.

+ New paper on circular economy

A new research paper  - 'A typology of circular economy discourses: Navigating the diverse visions of a contested paradigm' has just been published.

This paper examines the diverse visions of the circular economy by reviewing the current state of the academic debate on the topic and analysing the history of circularity discourses from the Global South and North alike.

By identifying and conceptually classifying circularity visions according to their position on fundamental socio-ecological issues, this research uncovers the implications of different circular discourses for global sustainability and the SDGs.

+ DevNet Conference update - call for abstracts!

The CID reps on the DevNet2020 organising committee now invite researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and others to submit abstracts for research and applied sessions at the Easy Chair submission link. The deadline for abstract submissions is: 12 noon NZ time on 30 August 2020.

Abstracts must be submitted to one of the following sessions:

  • General sessions: abstracts for research or applied presentations on any topic related to the conference theme and questions. Abstracts submitted to these sessions will be grouped with other similar abstracts.
  • Named sessions: abstracts for research or applied presentations corresponding to specific named conference sessions (download a detailed description of these sessions here.
  • Student session: Postgraduate students are encouraged to submit abstracts of their research proposals or preliminary results in this session. Speakers will be limited to 5 minutes and presentations will be eligible for a prize.  Alternatively, you may opt to submit an abstract to a general or named session for a longer presentation time slot (e.g. for those with well-developed results).
Please, download the templates: Research presentation or Applied (practitioner) presentation.

We look forward to seeing you at #DevNet2020!
+ CID Activities
  • Election event in progress - August 6th
  • Two 'Adaptive Management' training sessions held
  • Meeting with NZDF and CID's involvement with KC20
  • CEOs catch up (fortnightly)
  • Annual conference preparation in progress
  • Network meetings - Programme Managers and Fundraisers
  • Collation of data for CID research: 'Health of the Sector'
  • Membership engagement: 1 on 1 calls with CEOs continued
  • Annual workplan for next Financial Year completed
  • Quarterly planning for next quarter in progress
  • ACFID/PIANGO/CID meetings and actions
  • CID members panel discussion on Effective Communication in progress