Switzerland and its booming economy are gradually returning to normal after the corona crisis. Just how much the "new" normal will differ from the "old" is yet to be seen, but we are again out and about and will shortly even be returning to the polls. Piloting the Swiss economy through the lockdown without too much devastation has come at a price to the Confederation. The compensation measures are likely to mean at least 30 billion francs in new debt for Switzerland. A substantial amount, even if it represents just 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product. The cumulative national income of the seven poorest developing countries is less than this. Even the roughly 2.8 billion francs to be spent by the Federal Council on development cooperation over the next four years look modest by comparison.
In many developing countries the pandemic has only just peaked, while in others it continues its rapid spread. At the end of May the epicentre of the pandemic was located in Latin America. In early June Brazil was recording some 30,000 new infections daily, and Mexico around 4,000. And growing numbers of new cases were being registered every day in Nicaragua and poverty-stricken Haiti. The Federal Council’s plan for the coming four years to terminate, of all things, Switzerland's bilateral development cooperation in Latin America is an inconvenience.
Even countries where case numbers have remained low are grappling with a downturn in foreign investment, dramatically falling commodity prices, tourist numbers and remittances from migrants abroad, plummeting exports and capital flight of historic proportions. The poorest members of society, who even in so-called normal times must live from hand to mouth, have been driven into hunger and hardship by the sudden shutdown of the economy. The International Monetary Fund estimates that worldwide, the corona crisis will push up to 60 million more people into extreme poverty. The number of malnourished people could increase by as much as 80 million. No less worrisome is the even greater suffering being experienced under the lockdown by those in civil society who stand up for human rights, environmental protection, equitable income distribution, or against corruption. Authoritarian regimes are deliberately misusing pandemic protection measures to repress progressive political forces. International human rights organisations report an alarming number of press freedom violations and assaults on activists.
The corona pandemic is not just an epoch-making health and humanitarian challenge, but in many developing countries will also translate into a protracted economic, political and social crisis. International solidarity is needed now more than ever.