Coping with COVID-19 from the Capability Perspective: A View from a Developing Country

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    Abstract

    Faced with cruel dilemmas posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments of many developing countries have displayed reluctance in imposing a strict shutdown, and even when one has been imposed they have been too eager to relax it prematurely while the pandemic is still rampant. More often than not, this is simply a manifestation of the way policymakers around the world continue to be guided by the single-minded pursuit of economic growth even if at the cost of human misery. This paper argues that there is a better way of handling the pandemic – one that places the concern for human capability at the centre of policymaking. The proposed strategy consists of a judicious combination of three types of policy instruments: (a) physical distancing through economic shutdown, as a means of containing the spread of infection, (b) bold measures of economic support, especially entitlement support to households, who are facing the spectre of hunger as a consequence of economic shutdown, and (c) an effective system of public health support, as a means of ensuring that the economy can be reopened ‘safely’. While all three instruments are important, special emphasis is given on the role of entitlement support, in the form of income protection for households who have lost their livelihoods. The specific empirical focus is on Bangladesh, but the arguments have more general validity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Human Development and Capabilities
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Nov 2020

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