I have just finished up at really interesting conference in London entitled “The global economic crisis – including children in the policy response“. The conference was jointly hosted by UNICEF and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). At the conference a series of papers analyzing lessons from past crises and taking an early look on the current responses were presented by academics, developing country researchers, and members of civil society. I presented a paper that looked at how aggregate income shocks were affected household health seeking behavior (still a work in progress).
I thought I would share what I think were some of the key take-aways for me from this event. First, I think the evidence from previous crises points to a story where we will likely see quite heterogeneous effects of the current financial crises, but children have shouldered a disproportionate share of the burden in past crises and will likely again this time around. Some aspects of their lives are also more likely to be affected than others, for example, there is evidence that health seems to suffer more than education when there are large economic downturns.
Second, there was a lot of talk about what are termed the 3 “F’s” of the financial crisis – “Fuel, Food, and Financial”. There is growing consensus that the world is beginning to emerge from the effects of the “financial” crises, however, the food and fuel crises – which have been in effect longer than the financial crises – are likely here to stay for a while to come. The crises is far from over in most developing countries where food and fuel represent large portions of total household expenditures. This point must not be lost as the world begins to turn exclusively to discussions of recovery.
Third, part of the variation in outcomes that has been observed in previous crises (e.g. the Asian Financial Crises) appears to be explainable by whether or not countries had in place social protection programs before the onset of the crises and the extent to which these programs were preserved. In addition, countries that established permanent social protection systems in response to past crises seem to be doing better this time around as opposed to those that simply implemented temporary measures. We need to understand better why some countries committed to these programs while others did not.
Fourth, another “F” might be looming on the horizon for developing countries – “Fiscal deficits”. Most countries have seen reduced revenues from taxes, tariffs, and other usual sources and have been encouraged to keep public expenditures high. However, the deficits that have been created are likely to come back to haunt some countries, in particular developing countries. Deficits might put increasing pressure on existing social protection and social programs going forward.
Finally, the way in which data is current being collected in developing countries means that for the time being we have nearly no way to monitor exactly how the crises in unfolding in most countries. One of the most interesting presentations we had was from a researcher in Egypt where they conduct large household surveys a few times a year allowing ongoing and real time monitoring of how the crises has been affecting households. It is sad that in this day and age, being able to access real time basic data on households remains a huge challenge.
The effects of the global economic crises are certainly far from over, in particular in developing countries. There was a lot of talk here about how to think of not just “recovering” from these shocks but using the opportunity for an excuse to implement more “restructuring”. I am happy when I leave a conference having learned something but also that our work could really help shape policies that may one day affect the lives of real people.Share on Facebook