This week, the world hit an agonising milestone as the one millionth COVID-19 death was recorded. But the ongoing pandemic threatens to scar our societies in other ways, too.
“Without urgent action, we risk deepening the divide – globally – between the rich and poor,” the head of International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva warned this week of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, inequality between and within countries had been a key impediment to sustainable development and social justice.
This is certainly true for Africa, which is home to 10 of the 20 most unequal countries in the globe. Despite two decades of high economic growth, resource-rich Africa remains the second most unequal region in the world.
Consider this: three African billionaires have more wealth than the poorest 650 million people – 50 per cent of the population – across the continent.
With so much at stake, international financial institutions have unleased trillions of dollars in dedicated lending to help developing countries bridge the financing gap.
This week, together with Global Witness and Human Rights Watch, we outlined three key anti-corruption measures that the IMF should take to ensure that funding reaches those most in need and the subsequent economic recovery does not contribute to even greater inequalities.
Without urgent action, we risk deepening the divide – globally – between the rich and poor
Kristalina Georgieva, Head of IMF
But besides promoting anti-corruption and good governance measures in aid-recipient countries, urgent global action is needed to tackle illicit financial flows.
These are billions that could be used to fund initiatives and public services that improve the lives of Africans.
These are billions of illegally money acquired that is funnelled abroad using offshore financial structures – often with the help of complicit or negligent banks, lawyers, accountants and real estate agents.
The IMF has lent US $89 billion as emergency assistance to over 80 countries since March. However, there is a real risk that the funds meant to support those hardest hit by the crisis may be captured by the wealthy. We, along with Human Rights Watch and Global Witness, outline three key steps that the IMF can take to ensure that funding reaches those most in need and does not contribute to inequality.
Investor visa programmes allow rich foreigners to buy residency and citizenship rights, but they also serve as a way for the corrupt to transfer money overseas. The United States’s EB5 programme is being abused by the corrupt in Russia to enable capital flight out of the country – thanks to complicit intermediaries in both the US and Russia.
Transparency International Zimbabwe’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre received more than 1400 reports of corruption in health care, policing and humanitarian aid since the beginning of the pandemic. Learn more about how COVID-19 has made a bad situation worse in the country.
In Sri Lanka, the Right to Information (RTI) law passed three years ago has helped improve lives of citizens. Now, an amendment to the Constitution is putting this law and the RTI Commision at risk, which might change the accountability mechanisms in the country for the worse.
We strongly oppose the proposed legislation in Poland that would exempt politicians and officials from liability for unlawful activities connected to the COVID-19 pandemic or outbreaks of other infectious diseases. Such a provision would greatly increase the risk of corruption and abuse of power.
Last week, we celebrated the International Right to Know Day and reiterated that COVID-19 should not be a reason for restricting freedom of information. Transparent and timely sharing of information with the public is crucial for protecting public health, preventing corruption, and safeguarding democracy.