The Covid-19 pandemic has reversed development gains for millions in poor countries, creating an even more sharply unequal world, according to a new UN report.
“The global economy has experienced the worst recession in 90 years, with the most vulnerable segments of societies disproportionately affected,” said the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing in their Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2021, pointing out that some 114 million jobs have been lost, and about 120 million people have been plunged back into extreme poverty.
The highly uneven response to the pandemic has “widened the already yawning disparities and inequities within and between countries and peoples”, according to the 60 international agencies that authored the report.
And while an historic $16 trillion in stimulus and recovery funds released by governments worldwide have helped to stave off the worst effects, less than 20 percent of it was spent in developing countries.
By January, all but nine of the 38 States rolling out vaccines were developed countries.
Before Covid-19, around half of least developed and other low-income countries were under threat of, or already experiencing, debt distress. Coupled with falling tax revenues, that has subsequently sent debt levels soaring.
In the world’s poorest countries, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be pushed back another 10 years, warns the report.
The report says that immediate action is needed to address widening inequalities, rebuild better, and prevent the development reversal.
“What this pandemic has proven beyond all doubt is that we ignore global interdependence at our peril.
Disasters do not respect national boundaries”, Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed said.
Meanwhile, Liu Zhenmin, Head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) that produced the report, flagged that countries must be helped to stay afloat financially and to invest in their own development.
“To rebuild better, both the public and private sectors must invest in human capital, social protection, and sustainable infrastructure and technology”, he said, adding that the “troublingly retrogressive” gap between rich and poor countries, requires “an immediate course correction.—TLTP