CMCFeature-CARIBBEAN-HEALTH- 'We must leverage the 'Commonwealth Advantage' to counter the economic fallout of COVID-19.

 
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The world is bracing for a massive hit to the global economy in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Experts have warned of a US$1-2 trillion shortfall in global income this year, while world trade could contract by between 13 and 32 per cent.

As countries take drastic measures to fight the spread of the disease, we are seeing borders and businesses closed, domestic and international travel scaled back, and a totally transformed way of life due to social distancing. Currently, 2.6 billion people across the world are affected by their workplace closing.

The result is a sweeping drop in economic activity, a much less active workforce, on top of growing global insecurity for the future. Without ample government bailouts, poor developing countries and small states remain the most vulnerable in the face of the pandemic.

However, history has shown that with the right policies and support measures in place, the Commonwealth as a whole will eventually be able to overcome the economic fallout - though extremely bleak times lie ahead.

In particular, gradually reviving trade flows amongst 54 member countries - worth more than an estimated US$700 billion in 2019 - can play a fundamental role in boosting economic recovery, while harnessing the benefits of Commonwealth ties.

Given the unprecedented nature of current pandemic, I am cautious in comparing economic-induced and biological-induced crises. However, the 2008-2009 global financial crisis can offer some insights about the Commonwealth's possible performance.

Over the years following the global financial crisis, the Commonwealth's overall exports of both goods and services grew at a faster rate than the world average.

From 2010 to 2018, the Commonwealth's exports in goods, which make up 70 per cent of its trade, grew by around 8 per cent, compared to only 5.5 per cent for the world.

In fact, during the global trade slowdown of 2012 to 2016, the Commonwealth's services exports were especially resilient, expanding by 7 per cent, on average - more than twice the growth rate for the rest of the world.

Rapid population and per capita income growth (especially in Asia) are part of the driving forces behind the Commonwealth's buoyancy. With 2.4 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, these drivers are unlikely to slow anytime soon - with or without coronavirus.

Moreover, Commonwealth countries share...

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