Edited by Marta Marson, University of Turin and OEET

 Newsletter n. 16| September 2020 - Download PDF

Covid-19 has affected and is affecting the lives of many, and it is also reshaping economic policy approaches and perhaps the priorities and values underlying them. The impacts on poor countries and vulnerable groups call for a deeper consideration and allow an assessment of the overall consistency of priorities and ethical values on which decisions are based, and of their equity.

By Piercarlo Frigero[*] and Xieshu Wang[†]



The process of the poor becoming rich while the richest gets richer is challenged by sudden and unexpected events such as a global pandemic. Covid-19 is one of these events, and it shows why inequalities must be detected and described to reveal failures of development. It’s quite easy to think of economic growth as an itinerary described by macro-variables, even if it is well known that the path is not so smooth, and the dynamics are more complex. An evolving society develops some sort of contradiction while its national income grows: the destruction of traditional livelihoods, new types of poverty, even the threat of disappearance of its native people. All this may be accepted as the inevitable cost of its future wealth: when the richest gets richer, also some of the poor will become richer, although many would lag behind, surviving without opportunities of a real change. The spread of Covid-19 has challenged this vision of growth: the pandemic is not democratic, but danger and fear are, and so is the risk of a substantial reduction of growth rates, with the collapse of financial markets. The rich and the poor need to cooperate to avoid the worst.

By Sara Caria[*]

 A focus of vulnerability for the Covid-19 pandemic

Latin America has turned into an important focus of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time this article was written, August 2020, among the ten countries with the highest number of reported cases, five are Latin American: this includes Brazil and Mexico, each with huge populations, but also smaller countries like Peru, Colombia and Chile. Latin America is the most unequal region of the world and also the most urbanized among developing countries, while high rates of informality and fragile social protection systems also contribute to making it particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. The region’s health systems, fragmented and scarcely integrated, were not prepared to guarantee the care required: public expenditure on health represents, on average, only 3,7% of GDP – in advanced economies it’s about 12% of a much larger GDP – and the availability of doctors and hospital beds with respect to the population is approximately half of that of advanced economies (CEPAL, 2020a). The pandemic, although with different impacts in countries and sub-regions, has provoked an unprecedented economic and social crisis, that could end up in a humanitarian disaster if appropriate response is not provided.

By Annalisa Prizzon[*]

Governments are trying to reallocate resources to health care and plan expansionary fiscal policies to kick-start economic recovery in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. However, funding has dried up, the tax base has shrunk and the demand for exports has plummeted in many countries because of trade and travel restrictions. As economies are designing their recovery packages, many are very likely to seek additional external assistance because other financing options are simply no longer available or at least not at the scale needed.

While other sources decline and fiscal needs expand, development aid is one of the few financing options that remain for many countries as it is less pro-cyclical than other development finance flows (ODI et al., 2015). It is in the interest of all countries to support emergency and recovery efforts against Covid-19 as well as the provision of vaccines.

By Francesco Rampa[*]


One Health, with food systems as the centre of action

The One Health approach means working on the connection between humans, animals, plants and their shared environments to prevent and control diseases circulating in animals and the environment and spilling over to human health. This approach – introduced by the One Health Coalition of governmental and private organizations (https://onehealthplatform.com/ohp/who-we-are/international-one-health-coalition) in the health sector to address animal disease, food safety and antibiotic resistance – is particularly relevant to tackle threats like Covid-19 and their complex causes. The current emergency offers the opportunity for stakeholders at all levels to realise the importance of the One Health approach, and to place food systems at the centre of One Health actions.

By Joe E. Colombano[*] and David N. Nabarro[†]

Introduction: the dynamic symbiosis between the virus and the SDGs

If there is one lesson to be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that humanity and the planet it inhabits are tightly linked in a sophisticated whole of interconnected systems. These systems encompass the reality of the biosphere and the constructs of our society, its politics and the economy, and are all tied together in a dynamic symbiosis of interconnections and couplings of varying strength. Life, in every form, is at the center of such “system of systems:” from the microscopic of a virus to the macroscopic of the animal kingdom, the global commons and the world economy. Because of its complexity, however, such a structure is vulnerable to sudden catastrophic collapse triggered by small and at times insignificant events in any one of the constituent systems (Efatmaneshnik, et al. 2016).


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