The Pandemic, School Closures, and the Rise of Inequality
School-age minors have suffered one of the COVID-19 pandemic’s most dramatic disruptions. In March 2020, schools closed their doors across the globe, and more than 1.5 billion students worldwide ceased to learn in physical classrooms—or, in many cases, in any organized fashion at all. By the fall of 2020, and then increasingly over the course of the spring, school systems in some countries began to experiment with partial and hybrid reopenings that allowed children to return to their campuses for a few hours or days each week. But not every school system has managed this much. The effects of school closures will not be easy to dispel—and they are particularly devastating for children in low- and middle-income countries.
Climate Migration: An Impending Global Challenge
For months, we have watched the crisis at the Mexican border as migrants tried to enter the U.S. In March, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office estimated that there were 171,700 people attempting to cross the border—the highest number in 20 years. About 30 percent were families, of which one third were refused entry under Title 42, a public health statute.
The number of unaccompanied children arriving and being held in custody in U.S. border shelters hit over 5,700 in March. And this week, five unaccompanied girls between the ages of seven and 11 months were found at the Texas-Mexico border. While a migrant surge occurs every year as people come to the U.S. for seasonal work, the record number of children being sent by themselves is likely a sign of desperate conditions back home.
China on the horizon as ‘world’s pharmacy
The World Health Organisation’s approval Friday for China’s COVID-19 vaccine known as Sinopharm dramatically transforms the ecosystem of the pandemic. In immediate terms, this has potential to boost global vaccine supply, as China’s overall yearly production capacity is approaching five billion doses.
The western pharmaceutical industry’s monopoly has been breached, as Sinopharm’s is the first COVID-19 vaccine developed by a developing country to be validated by the WHO and only the sixth approved for emergency use globally–in fact, the only non-western vaccine so far. Literally, China has gatecrashed the aggressively-guarded orchard of powerful western pharmaceutical companies. In practical terms, the WHO approval allows China to enter the portals of the COVAX as a qualified supplier.
Developing countries in the stranglehold of debt.
The coronavirus pandemic and other aspects of the multidimensional crisis of global capitalism are enough to fully justify suspending debt repayment. Indeed priority must be given to protecting people against ecological, economic and public health disasters.
In the context of the current emergency, we have to assess longer trends that make it necessary to implement radical solutions to the issue of DCs’ debt. This is why we develop our analysis of factors that currently increase the unsustainability of the debt repayments claimed from countries in the Global South. We shall consider in turn the downward trend in commodity prices, the reduction of foreign exchange reserves, continued dependence on revenue from commodity export, the DCs’ debt payment calendar, with major repayments due between 2021 and 2025, mainly to private creditors, the drop in migrants’ remittances to their countries of origin, the back flow to the North of stock market investments, the perpetuation of capital flight.1 Payment rescheduling granted in 2020-2021 because of the pandemic by creditor countries that are members of the Paris Club and of the G20 only accounts for a small portion of repayments owed by developing countries.
Understanding development in a Global Value Chain World: Comparative Advantage or Monopoly Capital Theory?
The recent period of globalisation–following the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the integration of China into the world economy–is in essence the period of global value chains (GVCs). From low to high-tech, basic consumer goods to heavy capital equipment, food to services, goods are now produced across many countries, integrated through GVCs.
The big question in development studies is whether this globalised reconfiguration of production is contributing to, or detracting from, real human development? Is it establishing a more equal, less exploitative, less poverty-ridden world? To understand these complex dynamics, scholars rely on economic theories. These theories must be relevant to the GVC-world and equipped to tackle these pertinent questions.
In 2020 the World Bank published its World Development Report Trading for Development in the Age of Global Value Chains (WDR2020, or ‘the Report’) to address these questions. It confidently proclaimed that ‘GVCs boost incomes, create better jobs and reduce poverty’ (WDR2020: 3). Given the World Bank’s promotion of neoliberal globalisation, this conclusion is unsurprising.
Globalization and global crisis
Concerns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic have led to new rationales of protectionism, with renewed emphasis on domestic production and sourcing. This column compares the current economic crisis brought on by the pandemic to previous major economic crises and examines what this could mean for the future of various aspects of globalization.
In his 1919 book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes described the open borders of the then bygone first age of globalisation before WWI
Economic recovery masks the dangers of a divided world
Nothing would be more foolish than policymakers in rich countries turning away from global challenges.
The big story from the recent meetings of the IMF and the World Bank is that the world economy is recovering substantially more quickly than expected even six months ago. But the recovery in the global economic aggregate masks what is happening to the world’s people. Both within countries and among them, the disadvantaged seem set to suffer the slowest recoveries. Moreover, this house divided may not stand: what is going on — above all, the slow global rollout of the vaccines — will worsen prospects for everybody.
COVID-19, infection control, and cholera
While the focus of healthcare research and reporting has understandably been primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic in the last year, other diseases and conditions have presented a quietly growing threat; particularly in low-income and developing nations.
Dr Osama B Hassan, of the Division of Epidemiology and Public Health in the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, co-authored an article in The Lancet’s EClinical Medicine journal earlier this year titled ‘Cholera during COVID-19: the forgotten threat for forcibly displaced populations’; he tells HEQ about the impact of COVID-19 on efforts to combat ongoing threat of cholera.
This crisis is different’: the dramatic rebound in the global economy
From an economic point of view, it is almost as if the last year was just a bad dream.
As recently as October, the IMF was warning that coronavirus will cause “lasting damage” to living standards across the world with any recovery likely to be “long, uneven and uncertain”.
Yet the forecast it released this week is very different. By 2024, the IMF now believes, the US economy is likely to be stronger than it had predicted before the pandemic. For most advanced economies, it says, there will be only limited scars from the crisis.
Extreme poverty isn’t natural, it’s created
Over the past few years, this graph has become a sensation. Developed by Our World In Data and promoted widely by Bill Gates and Steven Pinker, the graph gives the impression that virtually all of humanity was in “extreme poverty” as of 1820 (i.e., living on less than $1.90 per day, PPP; less than is required for basic food).
OWID has used this figure to claim that extreme poverty was the natural or baseline condition of humanity, extending far back into the past: “in the thousands of years before the beginning of the industrial era, the vast majority of the world population lived in conditions that we would call extreme poverty today.”