COVID-19 | Notes to redesign the global order: eradicate poverty (SDG 1)

May 22, 2020

Javier Surasky

May 27,2020 

In this same section a few weeks ago we shared a publication in which we pointed out the importance of a comprehensive approach to the 2030 Agenda in the processes of overcoming the impacts of COVID-19.

We now begin a review of the 17 SDGs in order to highlight some ways in which they are or may be affected by the pandemic. For starters, we will address the first Objective: End poverty in all its forms and throughout the world.

The first reference is obvious: the interruption of economic activities resulting from the quarantines imposed in almost all the countries of the region means a huge national economic cost. Thinking only in terms of economic aggregates such as the GDP, prevents us from taking into account inequality and vulnerability elements that are critical when analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on people. 

ECLAC identifies for the LAC region five external channels of the global economic impacts of the pandemic: the decrease in economic activity of its main trading partners, the fall in the prices of primary products, the interruption of global value chains, the fall in the demand for tourism services, and the intensification of risk aversion.

The sum of the internal economic effects sets a realty in which Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador would see their GDP drop above five points. The first three are, along with Colombia, the most populated countries in the region. Consequently, the results will affect approximately 387 million people.

Within this universe, those who were in a situation of greater poverty, along with the most vulnerable in terms of economic income, are the most affected by the loss of monetary income, which results from the response measures to the health emergency. 

This poverty and vulnerability combination, in a framework of inequality and initial economic stagnation registered by most of the countries in the region, leads ECLAC to consider a 4.4% increase in income poverty in the region by 2020, which is equivalent to 28.7 million new poor, bringing the regional aggregate percentage of people in poverty by income to 34.7%, that is, 214.7 million people.

If we focus on extreme poverty or indigence, it would rise by 2.6%, that is, 15.9 million new extreme poor, which would imply that by 2020 83.4 million people would be in extreme poverty.

If we move from income poverty to a multidimensional concept of it, the situation is aggravated as new variables are considered. The multidimensional perspective is important for LAC, since the Multidimensional Poverty Index published by UNDP and the Oxford Initiative on Poverty and Human Development in December 2019, shows that more than two thirds of people in multidimensional poverty, approximately 886 million people, live in middle-income countries, which are the ones we mostly find in the region. People in this same situation living in low-income countries are about 440 million, that is, half.

Taking as an example a group of Latin American and Caribbean countries that have made multidimensional measurements from 2015 onwards, we find the following situation:

Source: Global Multidimensional Poverty Index, 2019

It is good to remember here that goal 1.1 refers to extreme income poverty, while 1.2 refers to multidimensional poverty. Instead, goal 1.5 refers to building resilience on poor and people in vulnerable situations, and reducing their exposure and vulnerability to extreme weather-related phenomena and other economic, social, economic and environmental shocks and disasters.

Indicators 1.5.1 and 1.5.2 to follow up on this goal, take as measures the number of dead, missing and affected people directly attributed to disasters per 100,000 inhabitants, and the direct economic losses attributed to disasters in relation to the world gross domestic product. Let´s recall that to date (May 15, 2020), the number of people killed by COVID-19 exceeds 310 thousand and that of infected 4.5 million, and according to the Asian Development Bank (SPA), world GDP could fall between a 6.4 and 9.7%.

In regional terms, once again taking as a reference the four countries that will have the greatest falls in their GDP, Argentina presently has 363 deaths (7,479 confirmed cases); Mexico 4,767 (45,032 cases); Brazil slightly more than 15,000 (222,877) and Ecuador 2,688 (32,763), according to the monitoring carried out by the John Hopkins University (data as of May 16, 5.30 PM EST time).

A recovery that takes us back on the path to achieving SDG 1, in the medium term, requires forceful actions. And the best way to avoid aggravating the situation will be to work with the 2030 Agenda as a guide; which implies avoiding unilateral solutions, aligning efforts from all stakeholders, considering the interdependencies between the measures to be adopted and their cross-impacts on different areas, and keeping sustainable development as a lighthouse. Otherwise, we will backslide on partial solutions, necessarily limited to face a global challenge in essence and expression.

An additional 41,472 cases and 2,071 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, representing a 2% relative increase for cases and a 1% relative increase in deaths, compared to the previous day.”

PAHO, May 26, 2020.

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