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G20, Heal Thyself

Summary:
As the world’s largest economies, the G20’s members have one overriding responsibility at their finance ministers' upcoming meeting: to agree on actions to suppress the pandemic. Ensuring effective public-health measures is today’s essential economic policy. NEW YORK – The G20 ministers of finance meet this week under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, which holds the group’s presidency this year. But it is hard to imagine the G20 countries leading the world, as they like to pretend that they do. Most of them can’t effectively lead themselves through the current COVID-19 crisis. Toward a New Fiscal Constitution PS OnPoint Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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As the world’s largest economies, the G20’s members have one overriding responsibility at their finance ministers' upcoming meeting: to agree on actions to suppress the pandemic. Ensuring effective public-health measures is today’s essential economic policy.

NEW YORK – The G20 ministers of finance meet this week under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, which holds the group’s presidency this year. But it is hard to imagine the G20 countries leading the world, as they like to pretend that they do. Most of them can’t effectively lead themselves through the current COVID-19 crisis.

As the world’s largest economies, the G20’s members have one overriding responsibility at the upcoming meeting: to agree on actions to suppress the pandemic. A few G20 countries are doing well; the laggard countries need to take urgent measures to stop the spread of the virus. All G20 countries need to cooperate on global-scale policies to overcome the health crisis.

An overview of the G20 countries is sobering. Many are so poorly governed that they have been utterly ineffective in containing the pandemic. Judging by data from the past two weeks, the biggest G20 failure, at 176 new cases per day per million population, is Brazil, led by the reckless populist Jair Bolsonaro, who has himself now contracted the virus. The second-biggest failure is the United States, led by the Bolsonaro of the north, Donald Trump, with 137 new cases per day per million population. The two other G20 countries with more than 100 new cases per day per million population are South Africa (129) and Saudi Arabia (112).

The next tier of countries, reporting 10-100 new cases per day per million population, includes Russia (47), Mexico (43), Turkey (16), India (15), and the United Kingdom (11). These countries are all at risk of a significant rise in transmission, with Mexico and India appearing to be at the greatest risk.

Six of the G20 countries currently report 1-10 new cases per day per million population – reasonably low rates that make possible decisive suppression of the virus in the near future: Canada (8), France (8), Germany (5), Indonesia (5), Italy (4), and Australia (3).

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