stiglitz287_NIPAH DENNISAFP via Getty Images_covax Nipah Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Avoiding a K-Shaped Global Recovery

While the United States and other advanced economies rush to vaccinate their populations and gear up for post-pandemic booms, developing countries and emerging economies continue to struggle. Fortunately, rich countries could help everyone else – and themselves – at little to no cost.

NEW YORK – The United States expects to “celebrate independence” from COVID-19 by Independence Day (July 4), when vaccines will have been made available to all adults. But for many developing countries and emerging markets, the end of the crisis is a long way off. As we show in a report for the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s (INET) Commission on Global Economic Transformation, achieving a rapid global recovery requires that all countries be able to declare independence from the virus.

Because the coronavirus mutates, it will put everyone at risk as long as it continues to flourish anywhere in the world. It is thus critical that vaccines, personal protective equipment, and therapeutics be distributed everywhere as quickly as possible. Insofar as today’s supply constraints are the result of a poorly designed international intellectual-property regime, they are essentially artificial.

While IP reform in general is long overdue, what is needed most urgently now is suspension or pooling of the IP rights attached to products needed to fight COVID-19. Many countries are pleading for this, but corporate lobbies in advanced economies have resisted, and their governments have succumbed to myopia. The rise of “pandemic nationalism” has exposed a number of deficiencies in the global trade, investment, and IP regimes (which the INET Commission will address in a later report).

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