The COVID-19 pandemic is leading to an even more sharply unequal world as the development gains for millions in poor countries are reversed, according to a new report released by the United Nations today. The Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2021 says the global economy has experienced the worst recession in 90 years, with the most vulnerable segments of societies disproportionately affected. An estimated 114 million jobs have been lost, and about 120 million people have been plunged back into extreme poverty. Only immediate action can prevent a lost decade for development for many countries. “What this pandemic has proven beyond all doubt is that we ignore global interdependence at our peril. Disasters do not respect national boundaries,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said. “A diverging world is a catastrophe for all of us. It is both morally right and in everyone’s economic self-interest to help developing countries overcome this crisis.” The highly uneven response to the pandemic has widened the already yawning disparities and inequities within and between countries and peoples. A historic US$16 trillion in stimulus and recovery funds helped to stave off the worst effects, but less than 20 per cent of that sum was spent in developing countries. By January this year, all but 9 of the 38 countries rolling out vaccines were developed countries.
Around half of least developed and other low-income countries were at high risk of or in debt distress before COVID-19, and, with falling tax revenues, the pandemic has sent debt levels soaring.
The situation in the world’s poorest countries is deeply troubling, and could push the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals another 10 years further into the future. The report includes concrete recommendations to help countries overcome the ravages of the pandemic.