📉 Future Trends — Economic Downturn, Debt Relief, Measles

In the second installment of this new series from the Institute for Economics & Peace, we investigate the impact of COVID-19 and future trends in economics, politics, social dynamics, conflict and development.

It’s hard to predict where the world will be in 12 months from now. Optimistic scenarios focus on successful lock-downs, and a vaccine being created and administered. Pessimistic scenario predictions focus on an inability to contain the virus, and possible second and third waves. What we do know is that countries will not snap back immediately – post COVID-19 will see us in a different world politically, economically and socially.


Africa’s total external debt is $700 billion and its debt service this year alone is $44 billion. Some of the world’s most under-resourced health systems would suffer with debt repayments being prioritized in the middle of a global pandemic. International Monetary Fund (IMF) members have committed to partial debt relief of $500M.

The U.N. warns economic downturn could kill hundreds of thousands of children in 2020. In addition to the increase in poverty, the world body also said in a risk report that nearly 369 million children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition have now been forced to look elsewhere.

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted. President Trump said that the Geneva-based WHO ‘botched the global pandemic response by praising Beijing’s handling of the crisis’. For the two-year budget cycle of 2018-19 the US Government pledged to contribute US$893M to WHO’s budget. 

Business confidence has plunged to its lowest level on record, even worse than the 2008 global financial crisis and early 1990s recession, as cash-strapped firms brace for an economic downturn of “unprecedented speed and magnitude”.

The amount of calls received by Lifeline so far in 2020 is unprecedented. The Chairman of Lifeline says calls to the support organisation have been steadily rising over the past year. Calls have increased by 30% since the beginning of the pandemic. Beyond Blue and Mental Health Organisation have received similar increases in calls.

Some countries are considering or are easing lock down restrictions. Germany eased restrictions on schools and shops while India will allow industries located in the countryside to reopen next week, as well as resuming farm activities to reduce the pain for millions of people.

Meanwhile in Italy, Roman police crackdown on a woman who took her turtle for a walk and has been fined 400 euros for breaking strict coronavirus confinement rules. Italians need a justifiable reason to be out on the street in the middle of a pandemic that has officially claimed more than 20,000 lives in the Mediterranean country since February.

There is a Measles resurgence fear amid coronavirus as millions of children risk missing out on measles vaccines, Unicef warns. Disruptions to routine vaccine services will increase the risk of children contracting deadly diseases, compound the current pressures on the national health services and risks a second pandemic of infectious diseases.

Physical distancing measures may need to be in place intermittently until 2022. Scientists have warned that there could be a resurgence of Covid-19 for years to come, and the social distancing measures will need to stay in place.

Thousands sign up to US class action to sue China over coronavirus, while Europeans are also floating the idea. Thousands of Americans have reportedly signed onto a class action lawsuit in the US state of Florida which seeks compensation from the Chinese Government for COVID-19 damages, as Western politicians increasingly call for accountability.

Only traitors criticise COVID-19 responses in Libya. A key figure within the LNA (Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar) declared that anyone criticising their efforts to combat COVID-19 was a traitor and would face arrest.  

Wuhan’s 11 million people are free to dine out, but they aren’t. Wuhan’s residents have now been allowed back into restaurants and cafes – but there’s a catch. They have to provide personal details and are tracked using Government apps. In cafes, Baristas take the name and address of each person that buys coffee.

Malawi’s High Court has temporarily barred the government from issuing a 21-day lock down. This followed a petition by a human rights group. It argued that the government had not implemented measures to help the poor during the lock down.

Meanwhile, South Koreans have voted in the middle of a pandemic. 66% of eligible voters turned out for parliamentary elections in what appears to be a successful example of how to balance the twin obligations of public health and civil liberties.

Unrest flares in Paris suburb amid corona lock down. Police and youths clashed for a second night in a low-income Paris suburb on Sunday as strict lock down rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus threaten a fragile social peace in deprived areas.

Vietnam protests Beijing’s expansion in the disputed South China Sea. As the world remains preoccupied with COVID-19, China has bolstered its presence in the South China Sea by setting up two administrative bodies on islands in disputed waters, dubbed “its youngest city”. Beijing is directly challenging territorial claims of its neighbours — the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Prison breaks are having a resurgence in the Covid-19 era. From the United States to Italy, Brazil, and Iran, inmates are trying to break out of jails, many of which have elevated coronavirus infection rates.

Coronavirus checkpoints help Irish police seize drugs and weapons. Due to strict  stay at home measures, Irish police made one of their largest drug seizures of the year when a car tried to evade one of their checkpoints.

COVID-19 risks more deaths than 18 years of war. Unless serious containment measures are enforced in Afghanistan, it could see more deaths from COVID-19 than from the past 18 years of war.

The people who have experienced the biggest jumps in need are not those typically served by the humanitarian programmes. These new jumps in need appear to be with those who work within the informal economy, such as day labourers, street vendors and unpaid family members. This group was making ends meet, if only just, but their households have insufficient economic resilience to weather the shutdowns being imposed due to COVID-19.

There have been reports that Beijing is tightening its grip on coronavirus research. China has imposed restrictions on the publication of academic research on the origins of the novel coronavirus, according to a central government directive and online notices published by two Chinese universities, that have since been removed from the web.

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