Covid-19 curbs ‘not worth economic pain’ for low-income countries

Some of the largest emerging economies — including India and Mexico — have suffered the most from coronavirus-related lockdowns, highlighting their limited policy options as the pandemic continues and wealthier countries start to consider reimposing restrictions in the face of a second surge in infections.

India’s economy, the world’s fifth-largest, shrank by about a quarter in the three months to June, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed severe curbs on business activity and movement to contain the disease. In the same period, Mexico lost 17 per cent of its output from the first quarter. Peru, whose output contracted by 27 per cent, was hardest hit.

The list may yet get bleaker as more data come in: South Africa is expected on Tuesday to report a sharp fall in gross domestic product of about 13 per cent in the three months to June, the darkest months of the pandemic.

While China, where the pandemic began, and some advanced economies, including the UK, Australia and South Korea, have reintroduced lockdowns at local level and may do so nationally if infection rates rise again, for many poor countries this approach is not an option, say analysts.

“India and South Africa, along with Latin America, have shown that in the main, low-income countries just can’t win…

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