Governments’ response to COVID-19 has in most cases involved earmarking a significant percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the standard measure of a country’s productive wealth – towards fighting the pandemic. Although this is only part of most governments’ broad-spectrum policy response to the disease, it is an important measure as it indicates governments’ level of commitment to responding to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
It must be stressed, however, that different governments face different levels of severity of the pandemic and different projections (depending on a wide range of conditions including the capacity of their health-care systems, the size, distribution and characteristics of their populations rendered vulnerable by poverty, HIV or other factors, and logistical difficulties in meeting essential needs in facing the crisis.)
Earmarking state funds to fight the pandemic has been done in one of two ways: either governments have increased their health budgets, or they have established specific anti-COVID-19 funds aimed at financing a broader response than health alone. It appears from the accompanying data, derived from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that countries’ response is largely dependent on current budgetary funding as their responses usually focus on 3- to 12-month response plans. Based on the fiscal data, only two countries have estimated (but not yet committed to) the overall response cost to fight Covid-19, namely Togo and Republic of Congo.
The differences of approach – budget increase or specific fund, intermediate-term or long-term costings – depends to a degree on considerations including but not only the amount of available foreign aid which can be thrown into the fight.
These factors, along with tax holidays for individuals and businesses, will all negatively affect GDP – and thus the amount of money available to governments to direct to combating the virus.
Despite declining GDP, FDI and other financial stimuli, however, African economies are expected to spend an additional US$10,6 billion on health this year to combat the novel Coronavirus.
This is a mixed blessing: higher health-care expenditure is certainly needed to flatten the curve of the viral infection and mortality rates – but such massive unplanned expenditure can be expected to reduce spending on other important areas, even within the health sector, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), another key response indicator that Accountability International is assessing to enable clear evidence-based COVID-19 policy debates.