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The Pandemic Pain of Emerging Markets

As COVID-19 continues its global march, the whole world is paying the price for some countries' negligent and incompetent political leadership and the virtual breakdown of the rules-based multilateral order. But emerging and developing economies are likely to suffer the most.

CAMBRIDGE – The public-health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have varied across countries. This is true even among emerging-market and developing economies (EMDEs), which, compared to advanced economies, have higher poverty rates, poorer health care, and a lower share of jobs that can be performed remotely.

And yet, surprisingly, COVID-19 infection and death rates have so far been lower in most EMDEs than in the United States and Europe, as Pinelopi Goldberg and Tristan Reed have noted (and as Raghuram Rajan has also pointed out). But this may partly reflect massive undercounting, and in any case the situation is evolving rapidly.

Latin America’s EMDEs have been the worst hit, with those of Southeast Asia the least affected. Vietnam and Thailand, for example, have reported remarkably few cases so far.

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