My recent post on an Oxford University study seems to have stirred some interest (partly, I suspect, because of some Jamaican readers’ partisan political leanings!) On March 25, 2020, the University’s Blavatnik School of Governance launched its COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, (including a Stringency Index), which it describes as “the first ever tool to track and compare policy responses of governments tackling the coronavirus outbreak around the world.” On that particular study, I would point out that the researchers have added a bunch more indicators. If you love graphs, do also take a look at the UK Financial Times’ analysis of the data, which is regularly updated. It includes a great timeline map of “How the World Locked Down Due to COVID-19,” using data from the Stringency Index.
Some commentators are not particularly happy with “rankings” and comparisons among countries; but as a layperson, I find them useful. As Robert DiNiro said in the wonderful Scorsese film “The Irishman,” (recommended for those staying home with Netflix!) – “It is what it is.” There are many ways of looking at these studies, and you may draw your own conclusions from the data provided. You can keep checking back on the Blavatnik website to see how things are moving, in Jamaica and elsewhere.
Now, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched an interesting dashboard (actually, two dashboards) looking at the pandemic through the lens of human development. The four-page website is subtitled: Exploring Global Preparedness and Vulnerability. Two pages examine countries’ preparedness to respond to COVID-19. The next two focus on vulnerability; the UNDP mentions, as examples, the high levels of vulnerability experienced by countries that “heavily depend on tourism such as island countries, inflows of remittances, or receiving official development assistance.”
Yes, our fragile island of Jamaica certainly checks those boxes.
As the UNDP notes in its preface, COVID-19 is about much more than health. In fact, as I have noticed more and more since the pandemic started, it points to the inequalities in our society even more starkly. I guess we could have expected that. The UNDP’s own Human Development Report 2019, coincidentally, focuses on “Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century.” The new UNDP dashboards focus on factors such as poverty levels, social “safety nets” (more than 40 percent of the world’s population has none). On countries’ preparedness, they take into account issues such as access to reliable broadband Internet, current expenditure on health, human resources, and hospital beds. As you can imagine, the gaps between developed and developing countries are startlingly wide.
One example: the UNDP notes (and we have been feeling this, especially with regard to education), “the digital divide has become more significant than ever.” I wrote about this issue recently in my Jamaica Gleaner blog, where I have been looking at how COVID-19 has been showing up these imbalances in our society. I included some numbers in that article that might be helpful.
On the interactive UNDP dashboards, you can enter the name of the country or countries you wish to look at (and yes, you can compare) on each of the four pages. See how you get on. It is very flexible.
I hope this information will be useful to you, dear readers, as we move forward bravely (but nervously) in the age of COVID-19. It’s all a work in progress. We are in uncharted territory, and those who are busy studying and analyzing may not always get it right, but we can be guided by these studies, putting our own experience (to date) in context.
Take care, everyone – and stay home unless you really, really have to leave the house!