Special Reports

The Poverty Mega Shock

There is no country in the world that has been immune from the impact of COVID-19. By the time that COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), many countries in the Caribbean were already recording its incidence. 

No section of society has been immune either. As governments have been forced to introduce lockdowns, many households find themselves without any source of income. This sudden pauperisation has sparked discussion in social media and in the regular press across the region. Governments are being scrutinised over their responses to the poverty induced by the pandemic.

Accounting for Pandemic Relief Funding

In 2019, the world experienced its lowest crude death rate ever – at 7.525 deaths per 1,000 persons, according to the World Bank. This figure is estimated to have increased for the first time this century to at least 7.6 in 2020. 

While 1,813,188 COVID-19 deaths were reported in 2020, recent WHO estimates suggest an excess mortality of at least 3 million persons. Globally, as of 11:37am CEST, 19 July 2021, there have been 189,921,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,088,281 deaths (reported to the World Health Organization). As if the pandemic itself was not enough to be worried about from a survival standpoint, we have seen vibrant manifestations of various perennial ills, such as underreported death and infection rates globally, vaccine inequality, undisclosed vaccine sources and uses, unclear and ever-changing reported vaccine efficacy rates and risks, and vaccine passport discrimination, for example. 

These and other pandemic-related mishaps only add to the simmering sense of confusion and chaos, causing many a (buried) seed of suspicion to spring green shoots of mistrust, and spread its roots. The irony is that in a world that has grown to almost expect fake news, truth, transparency, and their offspring – trust – are probably at once, more priceless but more elusive than ever before. 

And then there is the perennial issue of money.

The Private Sector’s Response to COVID-19 in the Caribbean

As outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, drawing on lessons learned from the previous SARS and MERs outbreaks, a pandemic can be severely disruptive to individual societies as well as the global economy and requires a ‘whole-of-society’ response.  

A ‘whole-of-society’ approach does not mean mere consultation. It goes well beyond that to providing guidance, communication, and coordination of plans so that key services can continue to be delivered. The stakeholders include business, trade unions, universities, religious and charitable organisations (NGOs). A ‘whole-of-society’ approach also does in no way derogate from a government’s leadership of the management of a crisis. The alternative approach may be described as ‘command and control’ where the Government attempts to exercise complete control over all stages of crisis management – readiness, response and recovery – without effectively or meaningfully engaging the private business sector and NGOs in these processes.