5 Reads on Coronavirus

Impact on developing countries — Developing countries with weaker public and private health infrastructure are very vulnerable to the disease. This is especially true in congested urban centers, where the introduction of social distancing is hardly feasible. Policies that will slow economic activities would have adverse effects on the poor, who work in the informal sector and lack a minimal social safety net. Climatic conditions, low contact with the outside world, and demographics may mitigate the severity of the impacts of the COVID-19 virus in the rural sector of developing countries, as well as developing countries with younger populations relative to the developed ones. Maximo Torero, the Chief Economist of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, has policy suggestions for countries addressing the COVID-19 challenge, recommending the establishment of an emergency safety net for vulnerable populations, Keeping international trade and global food supply chains going, and removing constraints on domestic smallholder production.

2. Why I’m not making COVID19 visualizations, and why you (probably) shouldn’t either

3. Why It’s So Freaking Hard To Make A Good COVID-19 Model

4. Please, Let’s Stop the Epidemic of Armchair Epidemiology

5. Value of a Statistical Life: Where Does It Come From?

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, an obvious question is what a value of $10 million for the value of a statistical life means about the ongoing strategy of causing a recession for the sake of protecting public health. The multiplication is straightforward. Imagine that the steps being taken to contain the virus save 500,000 US lives. With those lives valued at $10 million, a social cost of up to $5 trillion in lost output would be justified. For comparison, US GDP is about $21 trillion. If steps taken to contain the virus save 50,000 lives, then a social cost of up to $500 billion in lost output would be justified. This calculation is so quick-and-dirty, and leaves out so much, that I hesitate even to include it here. It does suggest to me that in these benefit-cost terms, it’s plausibly worth a recession to contain the virus, even a deep-but-short recession. It also suggests that if looking at how health risks have been valued by actual people and governments in the past, a long-term recession or depression would not be a price worth paying to contain the virus.

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Ismail Ali Manik

Ismail Ali Manik

Uni. of Adelaide & Columbia Uni NY alum; World Bank, PFM, Global Development, Public Policy, Education, Economics, book-reviews, MindMaps, @iamaniku