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Low-Income Countries Need Billions for COVID Recovery

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook as of March 3, 2021

Note: All spending assumed to be broken down into 50% public consumption and 50% public investment

Low-income countries need around $200 billion between now and 2025 to sufficiently respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The IMF estimates that these countries — especially in the Middle East, Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — would need an additional $250 billion to catch up to the advanced-economy level of response — with another $100 billion set aside for any unplanned risks.

The pandemic took a heavy toll on low-income countries because of already limited access to financial resources, lack of monetary policy support, heavy reliance on specific sectors and escalated debt levels. The $550 billion would allow these countries to distribute vaccines more widely, respond to financial distress and better manage productivity performance.

The international community provided short-term assistance to these countries by supporting banking systems on debt-service relief. For low-income countries to have a shot at recovery, however, the IMF states that “there will need to be a coordinated, multifaceted, strong response” to help support these countries with vaccine distribution, technological advancements and climate risks.

The Pandemic Is Weakening the Stigma Around Mental Health

The prevalence of anxiety and depression has doubled in some countries during the pandemic, according to a report from the OECD. “Risk factors generally associated with poor mental health — financial insecurity, unemployment, fear” have heightened since COVID-19 hit, the report says, while beneficial factors, including social connection, “fell dramatically.”

The study notes that “differences in the openness of populations to discussing their mental state also hampers cross-country comparability,” referring to the stigma around mental health. Mental health is stigmatized through negative judgements, discrimination or dismissiveness toward those with trauma, depression, etc., which becomes a barrier to getting help, according to NAMI. But the spike in mental health issues has also led to a growing willingness to recognize and talk about such issues — chipping away at the stigma

Most countries have increased mental health resources during the pandemic. But, the OECD says we need a systemic-level response that includes assured mental health services and employers who actively support and contribute to the mental health of their employees.

Inflation Numbers Grow Among Lasting Pandemic Effects

For many countries, inflation rates hit year-long highs. According to the U.S. National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s core CPI — an index that accounts for the volatility of energy and food prices — increased 4.58% from October 2021, a year-high. Similarly, departments from the U.K. and China report a year-over-year increase. China’s NBS reported a 1.5% increase for October while the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics reported a 4.2% increase.

For the United Kingdom, inflation is a symptom of rising energy costs as a result of Europe’s gas crisis, statisticians say. Transport is the second-largest contributor to inflation, followed by restaurants and hotels and education. Similarly for China, the rise in inflation is due to a rising cost of energy, as well as a vegetable shortage caused by heavy rainfall.

Automated Trucking Companies Are Raising Larger Deals

While autonomous cars have yet to make a significant impact in consumers’ lives, investors see an opportunity in the automated trucking industry. According to CB Insights, companies have raised an average of $650 million for 2021. These companies cover everything from the actual self-driving truck technology and logistics surrounding fleet coordination.

Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is the most well-funded company, with a total of $5.7 billion raised throughout its lifetime. It recently announced a partnership with UPS in piloting self-driving trucks in Texas, alleviating supply chain issues caused by the labor shortage. 

Meanwhile, China-based Manbang Group focuses on freight matching — pairing cargo freight with drivers. It has raised a total of almost $3.7 billion. Previously, this was managed by brokers, but automation is increasingly taking the lead. Manbang uses its automation software to connect the 10 million verified truckers with 5 million cargo consignors on its platform. 

There may be other surprising beneficiaries to autonomous trucking, as increased efficiency and lower operating costs could lead to higher congestion in urban centers — making rail a more appealing option.

Financial Institutions Across 45 Countries Make the Net-Zero Pledge

During COP26, Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) announced that it now includes over 445 financial institutions in 45 countries. The alliance mobilizes more than $130 trillion in private capital. GFANZ was launched in April 2021 to accelerate decarbonization and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as indicated by the Paris Agreement.

Stopping climate change will require coordination across the financial system, and to achieve this goal, GFANZ brings together existing and new net-zero finance initiatives. Participating institutions are required to set science-based goals to reach net-zero emissions — including interim 2030 targets — and commit to transparent reporting in line with the criteria detailed by the United Nations Race to Zero

As more firms in the financial sector align their lending, investing, asset management and underwriting practices with net-zero targets, companies can expect to face increasing pressure to decarbonize and disclose their emissions and climate risks.

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