We discuss existing shortfalls and inequalities in the accumulation of human capital—knowledge, skills, and health. We analyze their immediate and systemic causes, and assess the scope for public intervention. The broad policy goals should be to improve: the quality, and not just the quantity, of education and health care; outcomes for disadvantaged groups; and lifelong outcomes. The means to achieve these goals, while maximizing value for money, include: focusing on results rather than just inputs; moving from piecemeal interventions to systemic reform; and adopting a “whole-of-society” approach. Reforms must be underpinned by a robust evidence base.
This paper finds empirical evidence that faster and smarter containment measures were associated with lower fiscal responses to the COVID-19 shock. We also find that initial conditions, such as fiscal space, income, health preparedness and budget transparency were important in shaping the amount and design of the COVID-19 fiscal response.
The large economic costs of full-blown lockdowns in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, coupled with heterogeneous mortality rates across age groups, led to question non-discriminatory containment measures. In this paper we provide an assessment of the targeted approach to containment. We propose a SIR-macro model that allows for heterogeneous agents in terms of mortality rates and contact rates, and in which the government optimally bans people from working. We find that under a targeted policy, the optimal containment reaches a larger portion of the population than under a blanket policy and is held in place for longer. Compared to a blanket policy, a targeted approach results in a smaller death count. Yet, it is not a panacea: the recession is larger under such approach as the containment policy applies to a larger fraction of people, remains in place for longer, and herd immunity is achieved later. Moreover, we find that increased interactions between low- and high-risk individuals effectively reduce the benefits of a targeted approach to containment.
John P. Ansah, Mr. Natan P. Epstein, and Valeriu Nalban
We develop an integrated epidemiological-macroeconomic model to analyze the interplay between the COVID-19 outbreak and economic activity, as a tool for capacity building purposes. We illustrate a workhorse framework that combines a rich epidemiological model with an economic block to shed light on the tradeoffs between saving lives and preserving economic outcomes under various mitigation policies and scenarios calibrated for emerging market and developing economies. In our benchmark setup, we link the effective contact frequency and labor supply decisions to the current state of the disease progression, allowing for relevant behavioral responses that introduce multiple feedback channels. We showcase the effects of various “smart” mitigation measures, e.g. improved quarantine capacity or targeted labor market restrictions, to alleviate the tradeoffs between health-related outcomes and economic activity, including in response to a second infection wave. The discovery of treatment or vaccine, and the possibility of temporary immunity for the recovered individuals are also considered. The model is further extended to a multisector framework to analyze the sectoral allocation effects of the COVID-19 shock.
Francesca G Caselli, Mr. Francesco Grigoli, Weicheng Lian, and Mr. Damiano Sandri
Using high-frequency proxies for economic activity over a large sample of countries, we show that the economic crisis during the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic was only partly due to government lockdowns. Economic activity also contracted because of voluntary social distancing in response to higher infections. We also show that lockdowns can substantially reduce COVID-19 infections, especially if they are introduced early in a country's epidemic. Despite involving short-term economic costs, lockdowns may thus pave the way to a faster recovery by containing the spread of the virus and reducing voluntary social distancing. Finally, we document that lockdowns entail decreasing marginal economic costs but increasing marginal benefits in reducing infections. This suggests that tight short-lived lockdowns are preferable to mild prolonged measures.
Mr. Jeffrey R. Franks, Bertrand Gruss, Mr. Carlos Mulas-Granados, Manasa Patnam, and Mr. Sebastian Weber
European authorities introduced stringent lockdown measures in early 2020 to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. As the first wave of infection curves flattened and the outbreak appeared controlled, most countries started to reopen their economies albeit using diverse strategies. This paper introduces a novel daily database of sectoral reopening measures in Europe during the first-wave and documents that country plans differed significantly in terms of timing, pace, and sequencing of sectoral reopening measures. We then show that reopenings led to a recovery in mobility—a proxy for economic activity—but at the cost of somewhat higher infections. However, the experience with reopening reveals some original dimensions of this trade-off. First, the increase in COVID-19 infections after reopening appears less severe in fatality rates. Second, a given reopening step is associated with a worse reinfection outcome in countries that started reopening earlier on the infection curve or that opened all sectors at a fast pace in a relatively short time. Finally, while opening measures tend to have an amplification effect on subsequent cases when a large fraction of the economy is already open, this effect appears heterogenous across sectors.
Mrs. Jana Bricco, Florian Misch, and Alexandra Solovyeva
This paper examines the economic effects of policies to contain Covid-19, by extracting lessons from Sweden’s experience during the ‘Great Lockdown’. Sweden’s approach was less stringent and based more on social responsibility than legal obligations compared to European peers. First, we provide an account of Sweden’s strategy and the health outcomes. Second, drawing on a range of data sources and empirical findings, our analysis of the first Covid-19 wave indicates that a less stringent strategy can soften the economic impact initially. These benefits could be eroded subsequently, due to potentially higher infection rates and a prolonged pandemic, but in Sweden’s case, the evidence remains mixed in this regard, and it is premature to judge the outcome of Sweden’s containment strategy. In addition, the economic effects of the containment strategy also depend on social behavior, demographics and structural features of the economy, such as the degree of export orientation, reliance on global supply chains, and malleability to remote working.
Developing and low-income economies face the challenge of increasing public spending to
address sizeable infrastructure and social gaps while simultaneously restoring the fiscal
discipline weakened to countervail the effect of the global recession. Increasing the efficiency
of social spending could be the key policy to address the dilemma as it allows the optimization
of the existing resources by reducing spending inefficiencies. This paper quantifies the efficiency
gap in the health and education sectors for a large sample of developing and emerging
countries and proposes measures to reduce these gaps for the specific cases of El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Honduras.