Supply chain crunch marginalises developing countries

Steven Spielberg

Smaller companies and poorer nations are being forced out of trading networks due to the supply chain frictions caused by the pandemic, says WTO chief.

Christophe Barraud

Christophe Barraud, chief economist and strategist at Market Securities, shared an article on the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, warning of continued bottlenecks in global supply chains. She believes that Covid-19 restrictions and logistic issues are hitting poorer nations and small businesses harder.

A former World Bank second-in-command stated to an audience in Paris that higher transaction costs risk squeezing poorer nations even though some of the Covid-induced supply chain problems have been resolved. She also stated that the supply chain disruptions were expected to be short and temporary but it is taking much longer than anticipated.

Okonjo-Iweala had earlier stated in October that the supply chain pressures would persist for several months, and in November that the problems are transitory and should end before the end of 2022. However, the emergence of the Omicron variant in late November shut down production and transport in China and also led to global travel restrictions. This forced the WTO to push back expectations of a return to normality.

The WTO is expected to convene a meeting for business executives, ministers, and trade experts in March this year, to discuss how to ease the persistent blockages in global supply chains.

Constantin Gurdgiev

Constantin Gurdgiev, economist and professor based in Dublin, Ireland, and a former editor of Business and Finance Magazine, retweeted an article on huge volumes of Covid-19 hospital waste threatening health. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, discarded syringes, used test kits and old vaccine bottles from the Covid-19 pandemic have accumulated to create tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste, threatening human health and the environment.

The pandemic has increased healthcare waste loads in facilities to up to ten times, according to Maggie Montgomery, a WHO technical officer. The material potentially exposes health workers to burns, needle-stick injuries, and disease-causing germs, experts opine.

Montgomery also stated that the biggest risk of the huge volumes of medical waste was air pollution, which is caused by burning the waste at high temperatures that eventually lead to the release of harmful carcinogens.

WHO officials also point at the overuse of gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic, and have called for reforms and investments to reduce the use of plastic for packaging and the use of reusable and recyclable personal protective gear. According to the report, about 87,000 tonnes of PPE has been ordered via a UN portal up until November 2021, most of which is assumed to have ended up as waste.

Prof S Grossbard

Prof S Grossbard, economist and professor of economics emerita at San Diego State University, and a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labour and the CESifo Institute, retweeted an article shared by economist Adan Murillo on the impact of the Covid-19 recession on Mexican households.

The study examined changes in labour supply, income, and time allocation during the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico. An event-study design highlighted that the Covid-19 recession had severe negative consequences on Mexican households. For instance, in the first month of the pandemic, employed fell by 17 percentage points. In addition, men recovered their jobs faster than women, with their employment reaching original levels in the second quarter of 2021. Women, on the other hand, faced persistent employment losses during the pandemic.

In the household front, men also increased their time on household chores while neither did men or women persistently increase their time to care for others. Instead, children reduced their time spent on schoolwork by 25%.

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