The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are now in real jeopardy of not meeting their 2030 deadline thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Sarvjeev S. Sidhu, head of emerging markets strategy at Aegon Asset Management.
Mr Sidhu says the pandemic has been catastrophic for developing nations and consequently the UN’s SDGs. With such a setback, Sidhu believes the SDGs are now a long way from being achievable in the timeframe initially agreed by participant nations.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly set back the United Nation’s sustainable development goals and targets. The ensuing global recession has pushed millions already struggling into extreme poverty.
“The economic and human development impact on the world’s poor and low-income developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has been particularly harsh. This has put the 2030 sustainable development goals and targets out of reach in many poor and developing economies.
“One of the biggest fallouts has been the inadequate policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The unequal access and availability of Covid-19 vaccines has led to social and economic hardship— poverty, inequality, food inflation, malnutrition. Rising unemployment also risks social unrest and human development.”
The situation was made worse, according to Mr Sidhu, by the gulf in fiscal response between developed and emerging economies, with several of the UN’s SDGs under particular strain now.
“The size, nature, and duration of fiscal support varied significantly across advanced and emerging market economies. According to IMF, developed economies spent approximately 28% of GDP compared with about 9% for emerging and low-income developing ones.
“Before Covid-19, approximately four billion people had no safety net to protect against economic and healthcare vulnerability, risk or deprivation. But fiscal spending has been re-prioritized for healthcare and economic support, taking away from key SDG spending. The pandemic has hit human development, especially in areas of health, education, gender equality and income.
“Persons without social protection were particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. An additional 150 million people are falling into extreme poverty and food insecurity according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. They face hunger and malnutrition, delaying the achievement of SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 2 (zero hunger).
“The inequalities within national borders and amongst countries is set to deepen, comprising the achievement of SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). The lack of adequate public health infrastructure, pre-existing health problems, and inability to work due to mobility restrictions has negatively impacted SDG 3 (health and well-being).”
Despite this, Mr Sidhu sees some hope through the World Bank and IMF’s initiative with G20 countries to establish a Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).
“In all, seventy-three countries are eligible for a temporary suspension of debt-service payments owed to their official bilateral creditors. The G20 has also called on private creditors to participate in the initiative on comparable terms.
“Equitable access Covid-19 vaccines facilitated by the World Health Organization under COVAX, particularly protecting those most-at-risk is the only way to mitigate the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.
“The DSSI and historic IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – equivalent to $650 billion of supplemental official reserves of its member countries – will help millions who have been denied the opportunity to lead a dignified life exacerbated by the pandemic. Effective public health and fiscal policy will give humanity a chance to get back on the road to 2030 Agenda.”