Harsh but true

Government ministers across Africa have called for the suspension of debt interest payments as the Covid-19 crisis deepens.

The numbers of cases being reported in Africa are still behind Europe and the US but rises are being confirmed in South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Burkina Faso, among others, and there is fear of what economic consequences the pandemic might wreak.

Well, of course they’re calling for debt relief. When don’t they?

However, this is going to be instructive. Those African countries aren’t going to shut down. Simply because some of them at least are living at the edge already. An economic shutdown doesn’t mean a fall in GDP, or the loss of some output. It means significant numbers of people falling below the survival line.

Which will give us the counter-example. What does Covid-19 do if there isn’t that economic shutdown? Against which we’ll be able to measure the costs of what we’ve done.

Which will be interesting. Even if the experiment isn’t one we’d perform – because it would be horrific to deliberately do nothing for a population – it’s one that will happen.

13 thoughts on “Harsh but true”

  1. A(frica) can’t pay B(???) so B can’t pay C(???) –and so on to ruin.

    Drop the Cod Closedown NOW –before it becomes a REAL closedown of human civilisation.

  2. Those African countries aren’t going to shut down.

    Indeed. I suspect they will provide proof of what happens if you let the disease run through a population ie very little.

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    Most African countries skew very young plus their elderly populations aren’t as strong as ours. Add in cultural factors such as the desire to touch dead bodies that exacerbated the Ebola crises and other cultural factors, plus the difficulty in collecting accurate stats in some of those countries and its going to take in a lot of data crunching to get anything useful in the time frames we’re looking at.

    This will be about after the fact analysis, useful for future policy makers, no doubt.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    Their rulers could steal less of the national product or aid, I suppose.

    There’s already been a call to lift sanctions:

    United Nations leadership called for rolling back international sanctions regimes around the world, saying they are heightening the health risks for millions of people and weakening the global effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

    The appeal reflects mounting concerns that sanctions regimes may be impeding efforts in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe to battle the coronavirus, and enhancing the prospects of the pathogen’s spread to other countries. It comes as China and Russia, which is subject to U.S. and European sanctions for its invasion of Crimea, have also stepped up calls for an easing of sanctions.

    How about those regimes mend their ways and then its a win all round. Lifting sanctions just gives those regimes further opportunity to embed themselves.

  5. @BiND – Iran has been having a good moan about sanctions, despite the religious fascist regime there rejecting an offer of aid from the US.

    Here in Hong Kong, there is an ongoing campaign to blame foreigners for the recent resurgence of COVID-19 infections, even though 99% of these have come from Hong Kong Chinese people returning home from Europe and elsewhere. There is also a press and social media campaign to shame Westerners for going to bars (restaurants are full of HK Chinese of course) and for not wearing masks (apparently we ought to do it out of solidarity, but don’t because we’re arrogant racists).

    At the same time, China is waging a social media war to deflect blame away from the CCP and its lies and on to the West for ‘failing’ to deal with the situation gifted by China. And for being racist of course.

  6. MC
    Interesting, because the government here in Thailand has been gently stoking anti Westerner feeling even though it’s the bloody Chinese to blame. The gov is also talking stiff measures even though the positive tests are NOT translating to sick and dead people. It’s surreal.

    And one crazy thing, the pm is on tv telling people to distance, while immigration is telling people stuck here with expiring visas they must visit immigration offices to get an extension or suffer the wrath of the blacklist computer which apparently cannot be reasoned with. Cue packed offices. What could possibly go wrong? Sigh.

  7. There are counter examples in Europe but they don’t seem to have lasted long. Switzerland held out against the panic longer than its neighbours, last I looked French Belgium had closed all schools and Dutch Belgium had kept them open.

    But the political choice is asymmetric. Draconian v liberal; high excess mortality v trivial increase in winter deaths.
    A liberal response is a no-win. If the effects of the virus are trivial, you get no credit, if they are severe you get only contumely. So a draconian response will always be chosen.

  8. MC
    Well known here of course. It was the coordinated blaming of “dirty westerners not wearing masks” (health minister) that I found interesting.

  9. @RLJ – it would not surprise me to learn that China is putting the squeeze on Thailand to do some blame-shifting on its behalf.

  10. Most of Africa unaffected as they take anti-malaria drugs – using CV to rattle begging bowl

    Who knew malaria could be a benefit?

  11. @philip Thank you for ground truth news about what is being done in France and Belgium.

    I am American, and a long-time reader of Tim Worstall’s economic column via Forbes online. Boris Johnson’s response is one of the best I have seen to-date. As of a week ago, he urged all Britons over the age of 70 to remain at home until June, along with some sensible public health measures for the rest of the population (but not such that the entire economy will grind to a halt).

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