khasru4_NHAC NGUYENAFP via Getty Images_vietnam covid19 Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images

The Global South’s Pandemic Path to Self-Reliance

The post-1945 paradigm of external development finance has been primarily driven by the developed countries of the Global North and shaped by their geopolitical agenda. But the COVID-19 pandemic offers developing countries the chance to reinvent and reboot their economies, and shake off the disabling legacy of foreign aid dependency.

MELBOURNE – COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on public health and to rattle the global economy with structural shocks. The pandemic has now killed more than one million people, while the International Monetary Fund estimates that global GDP will shrink by 4.4% in 2020. But, strange as it may seem, the current crisis could offer developing countries a path toward greater economic self-reliance.

This is partly because developed countries have in general borne the brunt of the pandemic’s health effects so far. Many advanced Western economies have experienced more COVID-19 cases and deaths relative to their populations than have developing countries of the Global South, despite their superior health-care systems and stronger social safety nets. For example, India’s health system ranks 112th globally, while that of the United States ranks 37th. But whereas India has so far reported about 6,400 COVID-19 cases per million population, America’s tally is more than four times higher.

Some developing countries like Vietnam combated the coronavirus effectively by introducing strict testing, tracing, and quarantine measures at a very early stage – something most developed countries failed to do. Even after allowing for possible underreporting and data inaccuracies in poorer countries, the relative performance of developed economies remains a paradox.

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