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IMF World Bank Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Multilateral Medicine

This year’s annual IMF/World Bank spring meetings may be taking place virtually, but the challenges facing the world’s finance ministers and central-bank governors are frighteningly real. In particular, will multilateral efforts succeed in preventing the coronavirus from causing a humanitarian and economic catastrophe in Africa and other vulnerable regions?

In this Big Picture, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Lawrence H. Summers, a former US Secretary of the Treasury, call for an aggressive increase in international lending to developing countries, expanded use of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights, and a two-year debt-payment moratorium for every emerging and developing economy that needs help.

Likewise, Harvard University’sCarmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoffadvocate an immediate temporary freeze on external debt repayments for all but AAA-rated sovereigns. And while praising the IMF’s emergency response so far, Mohamed A. El-Erianof Allianz says advanced economies must go further by urgently establishing an international solidarity fund and crowding in private-sector resources.

OXFAM International’sChema Vera, meanwhile, points out that the pandemic has exposed extreme global inequalities more profoundly than any previous crisis. For that reason, say Oxford’sIan Goldin and Robert Muggahof the Igarapé Institute, the current emergency highlights the need for a comprehensive plan to address entrenched economic disparities in a post-pandemic world.

Finally, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzálezhopes that international cooperation to combat COVID-19 will spur similar efforts to tackle climate change, poverty, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and other global “public bads.” Multilateralism, she concludes, will be our best defense against all these threats.

reinhart41_Mamunur RashidNurPhoto via Getty Images_bangladesh poverty Mamunur Rashid/NurPhoto via Getty Images 
elerian124_BENSON IBEABUCHIAFP via Getty Images_coronavirusaidnigeriaafrica Benson Ibeabuchi/AFP via Getty Images
vera1_Satish BateHindustan Times via Getty Images_coronavirus poverty food aid Satish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
op_goldin2_LUIS ROBAYOAFP via Getty Images_coronaviruspovertyhomelesscolombia Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
agonzalez4_FABRICE COFFRINIAFP via Getty Images_whocoronavirusdata Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images
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