COVID-19 plunged 77 million into poverty, says UN
International charity organisation, Oxfam, has cautioned International Monetary Fund (IMF) against pushing developing countries into austerity measures.
It lamented that 87 per cent of IMF COVID-19 loans require developing countries to adopt tough, new austerity measures, even as it accused the Fund of double standards.
In a statement, yesterday, in Abuja, Oxfam said: “New analysis finds that 13 out of the 15 IMF loan programmes negotiated during the second year of the pandemic require new austerity measures such as taxes on food and fuel or spending cuts that could put vital public services at risk. IMF is also encouraging six additional countries to adopt similar measures.
“Recently, IMF chief, Kristalina Georgieva, urged Europe not to endanger its economic recovery with ‘the suffocating force of austerity’. Yet, over the past year, IMF has gone back to imposing austerity measures on lower-income countries.
“This epitomises IMF’s double standard: it is warning rich countries against austerity while forcing poorer ones into it. The pandemic is not over for most of the world. Rising energy bills and food prices are hurting poor countries most. They need help boosting access to basic services and social protection, not harsh conditions that kick people when they are down.
Also, Country Director (Oxfam), Dr. Vincent Ahonsi, said: “Nigeria is a country of spectacular inequality and astounding level of poverty, which cannot afford the IMF’s austerity pill, as that could further worsen inequality and plunge more Nigerians deeper into poverty.”
He added: “IMF needs to stop selling its austerity ideas to Nigeria and facilitate an easier access to emergency financing for socioeconomic infrastructure and human capacity development. The agency also needs to encourage the Nigeria government to lessen the burden on 99 per cent of the people who happen to be at the bottom of the pyramid, and tax the super-rich one per cent more appropriately through progressive tax regimen.”
This came as the United Nations disclosed that the coronavirus pandemic shock plunged 77 million people into extreme poverty last year globally and, by the end of this year, many economies will have remained below pre-2019 levels.
Under Secretary-General, Liu Zhenmin, in a report, explained that the crippling cost of debt financing for many developing countries has restricted their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing cutbacks in development, and their ability to respond to further shocks.
The report noted that rich countries were able to support their pandemic recovery with record sums borrowed at ultra-low interest rates, while the poorest spent billions servicing debt, preventing them from investing in sustainable development.
It estimated that one in five developing countries’ gross domestic product per capita would not return to 2019 levels by the end of 2023, even before absorbing impacts of the Ukraine war.