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The “Invisibles” in the Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis leaves some people more vulnerable than others to the economic and social fallout. The G20 should create initiatives that reflect the inclusive foundations of the Marshall Plan rather than the inadequate bailouts of the Great Recession.

LONDON/PARIS – The COVID-19 pandemic began with trust in institutions at an all-time low. Politics was polarized and social cohesion stretched thin. That is why as governments scramble to direct massive resources to households and businesses, they must not neglect those local communities where the health crisis and the economic fallout will most visibly intersect.

As G20 leaders convene online this week to coordinate a response to COVID-19, the drop in global GDP expected in the coming months seems likely to exceed the contraction during the post-2008 Great Recession. Unlike the global financial crisis that triggered that downturn, the pandemic threatens to shutter entire sectors of economies across the world. We simply have no precedent for so much of so many economies suddenly halting simultaneously.

The domestic responses to the Great Recession were inadequate. Bailouts stabilized financial institutions and urban centers while leaving millions behind in rural and semi-rural regions. As austerity and automation eroded prospects for better lives in non-urban communities, a sense of injustice took root. Populists exploited these grievances, turning citizens against migrants, refugees, the media, the “establishment,” and experts of all types.

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