Abstract

COVID-19 has disrupted the Chinese economy and is spreading globally. The evolution of the disease and its economic impacts are highly uncertain, making formulation of appropriate macroeconomic policy responses challenging. This paper explores seven plausible scenarios of COVID-19 and the macroeconomic outcomes using a global hybrid DSGE/CGE general equilibrium model. The results demonstrate that even a contained outbreak could significantly impact the global economy in the short run. Economic costs could be significantly avoided with greater investment in public health systems in all economies, particularly in economies where health care systems are less developed and population density is high.

1.  Introduction

The COVID-19 outbreak was caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This outbreak triggered in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, which is in the Hubei Province of China. Since then, COVID-19 continues to spread across the world. Initially, the epicenter of the outbreak was China, with reported cases either in China or travelers from China. As of March 2020, at least four further epicenters have been identified: Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Even though the cases reported from China are expected to have peaked and are now falling (World Health Organization 2020), cases reported from countries previously thought to be resilient to the outbreak, due to stronger medical standards and practices, have recently increased. Although some countries have been able to effectively treat the reported cases, it is uncertain where and when new cases will emerge. Amidst the significant public health risk that COVID-19 poses to the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern to coordinate international responses to the disease. It is, however, currently debated whether COVID-19 could potentially escalate to a global pandemic.

In a strongly connected and integrated world, the impacts of the disease beyond mortality (those who die) and morbidity (those who are incapacitated or caring for the incapacitated and unable to work for a period) have become apparent since the outbreak. Amidst the slowing down of the Chinese economy with interruptions to production, the functioning of global supply chains has been disrupted. Companies across the world dependent upon inputs from China, irrespective of size, have started experiencing contractions in production. Transport being limited and even restricted among countries have further slowed down global economic activities. Most importantly, some panic among consumers and firms has distorted usual consumption patterns and created market anomalies. Global financial markets have also been responsive to the changes and global stock indices have plunged. Amidst the global turbulence, the IMF, in an initial assessment, expects China to slow down by 0.4 percentage points compared to its initial growth target of 5.6 percent, also slowing down global growth by 0.1 percentage points. This is likely to be revised in the coming weeks.

This paper attempts to quantify the potential global economic costs of COVID-19 under different possible scenarios. The goal of the paper is to provide guidance to policymakers regarding the economic benefits of globally coordinated policy responses to tame the virus. The paper builds upon the experience gained from evaluating the economics of SARS (Lee and McKibbin 2004a, 2004b) and pandemic influenza (McKibbin and Sidorenko 2006, 2009). The paper first summarizes the existing literature on the macroeconomic costs of diseases in Section 2. Section 3 outlines the global macroeconomic model (G-Cubed) used for the study, highlighting its strengths to assess the macroeconomics of diseases. Section 4 describes how epidemiologic information is adjusted to formulate a series of economic shocks that are fed into the global economic model. Section 5 discusses the results of the seven scenarios simulated using the model. Section 6 concludes the paper summarizing the main findings and discusses some policy implications.

2.  Related literature

Many studies have found that population health—as measured by life expectancy, infant and child mortality, and maternal mortality—is positively related to economic welfare and growth (Cuddington et al. 1994; Cuddington and Hancock 1994; Pritchett and Summers 1993; Bloom et al. 1998; Bhargava et al. 2001; WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health 2001; Robalino et al. 2002a; Robalino et al. 2002b; Haacker 2004).

There are many channels through which an infectious disease outbreak influences the economy. Direct and indirect economic costs of illness are often the subject of the health economics studies on the burden of disease. The conventional approach uses information on deaths (mortality) and illness that prevents work (morbidity) to estimate the loss of future income due to death and disability. Losses of time and income by caregivers and direct expenditure on medical care and supporting services are added to obtain the estimate of the economic costs associated with the disease. This conventional approach underestimates the true economic costs of infectious diseases of epidemic proportions, which are highly transmissible and for which there is no vaccine (e.g., HIV/AIDS, SARS, and pandemic influenza). The experience from these previous disease outbreaks provides valuable information on how to think about the implications of COVID-19.

The HIV/AIDS virus affects households, businesses, and governments—through changed labor supply decisions; efficiency of labor and household incomes; increased business costs and foregone investment in staff training by firms; and increased public expenditure on health care and support of disabled and children orphaned by AIDS (Haacker 2004). The effects of AIDS are long-term but there are clear preventive measures that minimize the risks of acquiring HIV, and there are documented successes in implementing prevention and education programs, both in developed and in the developing world. Treatment is also available, with modern antiretroviral therapies extending the life expectancy and improving the quality of life of HIV patients by many years if not decades. Studies of the macroeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS include those by the World Bank (2006), Freire (2004), Haacker (2002a, 2002b), Over (2002), Cuddington and Hancock (1994), Cuddington et al. (1994), and Cuddington (1993a, 1993b). Several computable general equilibrium (CGE) macroeconomic models have been applied to study the impact of AIDS (Arndt and Lewis 2001; Bell et al. 2004).

The influenza virus is far more contagious than HIV, and the onset of an epidemic can be sudden and unexpected. It appears that SARS-CoV-2 is also extremely contagious. The fear of the 1918–19 Spanish influenza, the “deadliest plague in history,” with its extreme severity and gravity of clinical symptoms, is still present in the research and general community (Barry 2004). The fear factor was influential in the world's response to SARS—a coronavirus not previously detected in humans (Peiris et al. 2004; Shannon and Willoughby 2004). It is also reflected in the response to COVID-19. Entire cities in China were closed and travel restrictions were placed by countries on people entering from infected countries. The fear of an unknown deadly virus is similar in its psychological effects to the reaction to biological and other terrorism threats and causes a high level of stress, often with longer-term consequences (Hyams et al. 2002). Many people would feel at risk at the onset of a pandemic, even if their actual risk of dying from the disease is low.

Individual assessment of the risks of death depends on the probability of death, years of life lost, and the subjective discounting factor. Viscusi et al. (1997) rank pneumonia and influenza as the third leading cause of the probability of death (following cardiovascular disease and cancer). Sunstein (1997) discusses the evidence that an individual's willingness to pay to avoid death increases for causes perceived as “bad deaths”—especially dreaded, uncontrollable, involuntary deaths and deaths associated with high externalities and producing distributional inequity. Based on this literature, it is reasonable to assume that individual perception of risks associated with SARS-CoV-2, which is similar to Spanish influenza in its virulence and the severity of clinical symptoms, can be high, especially during the early stage of the pandemic when no vaccine is available and antivirals are in short supply. This is exactly the reaction revealed in two surveys conducted in Taiwan during the SARS outbreak in 2003 (Liu et al. 2005), with the novelty, salience, and public concern about SARS contributing to the higher-than-expected willingness to pay to prevent the risk of infection.

Studies of the macroeconomic effects of the SARS epidemic in 2003 found significant effects on economies through large reductions in consumption of various goods and services, an increase in business operating costs, and a re-evaluation of country risks reflected in increased risk premia. Shocks to other economies were transmitted according to the degree of the countries’ exposure, or susceptibility, to the disease. Despite a relatively small number of cases and deaths, the global costs were significant and not limited to the directly affected countries (Lee and McKibbin 2004a, 2004b). Other studies of SARS include Chou et al. (2004) for Taiwan, Hai et al. (2004) for China, and Sui and Wong (2004) for Hong Kong.

There are only a few studies of economic costs of large-scale outbreaks of infectious diseases to date. Schoenbaum (1987) is an example of an early analysis of the economic impact of influenza. Meltzer et al. (1999) examine the likely economic effects of the influenza pandemic in the United States and evaluate several vaccine-based interventions. At a gross attack rate (i.e., the number of people contracting the virus out of the total population) of 15–35 percent, the number of influenza deaths is 89,000–207,000, and an estimated mean total economic impact for the U.S. economy is US$ 73.1–US$ 166.5 billion.

Bloom et al. (2005) use the Oxford economic forecasting model to estimate the potential economic impact of a pandemic resulting from the mutation of avian influenza strain. They assume a mild pandemic with a 20 percent attack rate and a 0.5 percent case-fatality rate (i.e., the number who die relative to the number infected), and a consumption shock of 3 percent. Scenarios include two quarters of demand contraction only in Asia (combined effect 2.6 percent Asian GDP or US$ 113.2 billion); a longer-term shock with a longer outbreak and a larger shock to consumption and exports yields a loss of 6.5 percent of GDP (US$ 282.7 billion). Global GDP is reduced by 0.6 percent, global trade of goods and services contracts by US$ 2.5 trillion (14 percent). Open economies are more vulnerable to international shocks.

Another study by the United States Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in 2005 examines two scenarios of pandemic influenza for the United States. A mild scenario with an attack rate of 20 percent and a case-fatality rate of 0.1 percent and a more severe scenario with an attack rate of 30 percent and a case-fatality rate of 2.5 percent. The study finds a GDP contraction for the United States of 1.5 percent for the mild scenario and 5 percent of GDP for the severe scenario.

McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006) used an earlier vintage of the model used in the current paper to explore four different pandemic influenza scenarios. They considered a “mild” scenario in which the pandemic is similar to the 1968–69 Hong Kong flu; a “moderate” scenario, which is similar to the Asian flu of 1957; a “severe” scenario based on the Spanish flu of 1918–19 (lower estimate of the case-fatality rate); and an “ultra” scenario similar to the Spanish flu 1918–19 but with upper-middle estimates of the case-fatality rate. They found costs to the global economy to be between US$ 300 million and US$ 4.4 trillion for the scenarios considered.

The current paper modifies and extends the earlier papers by Lee and McKibbin (2004a) and McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006) to a larger group of countries, using updated data that capture the greater interdependence in the world economy and, in particular, the rise of China's importance in the world economy today.

3.  The hybrid DSGE/CGE global model

For this paper, we apply a global intertemporal general equilibrium model with heterogeneous agents called the G-Cubed multi-country model. This model is a hybrid of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models and CGE models developed by McKibbin and Wilcoxen (1999, 2009, 2013).

3.1  The G-Cubed model

The version of the G-Cubed model (G20) used in this paper can be found in McKibbin and Triggs (2018), which extends the original model documented in McKibbin and Wilcoxen (1999, 2009, 2013). The model has six sectors and 24 countries and regions. Table 1 presents all the regions and sectors in the model. Some of the data inputs include the input-output tables found in the GTAP database (Aguiar et al. 2019), which enables us to differentiate sectors by country of production within a DSGE framework. Each sector in each country has a KLEM technology in production that captures the primary factor inputs of capital (K) and labor (L) as well as the intermediate or production chains of inputs in energy (E) and materials (M). These linkages are both within a country and across countries.

Table 1.

Overview of the G-Cubed (G20) model

Countries (20)Regions (4)
Argentina Rest of the OECD 
Australia Rest of Asia 
Brazil Other oil-producing countries 
Canada Rest of the world 
China  
Rest of Eurozone Sectors (6) 
France Energy 
Germany Mining 
Indonesia Agriculture (including fishing and hunting) 
India Durable manufacturing 
Italy Non-durable manufacturing 
Japan Services 
Korea  
Mexico Economic agents in each country (3) 
Russia A representative household 
Saudi Arabia A representative firm (in each of the 6 production sectors) 
South Africa Government 
Turkey  
United Kingdom  
United States  
Countries (20)Regions (4)
Argentina Rest of the OECD 
Australia Rest of Asia 
Brazil Other oil-producing countries 
Canada Rest of the world 
China  
Rest of Eurozone Sectors (6) 
France Energy 
Germany Mining 
Indonesia Agriculture (including fishing and hunting) 
India Durable manufacturing 
Italy Non-durable manufacturing 
Japan Services 
Korea  
Mexico Economic agents in each country (3) 
Russia A representative household 
Saudi Arabia A representative firm (in each of the 6 production sectors) 
South Africa Government 
Turkey  
United Kingdom  
United States  

Source:G-Cubed (G20) model version GGG6G_v151.

The approach embodied in the G-Cubed model is documented in McKibbin and Wilcoxen (1999, 2009, 2013). Several key features of the standard G-Cubed model are worth highlighting here.

First, the model completely accounts for stocks and flows of physical and financial assets. For example, budget deficits accumulate into government debt, and current account deficits accumulate into foreign debt. The model imposes an intertemporal budget constraint on all households, firms, governments, and countries. Thus, a long-run stock equilibrium is reached through the adjustment of asset prices, such as the interest rate for government fiscal positions or real exchange rates for the balance of payments. However, the adjustment toward the long-run equilibrium of each economy can be slow, occurring over much of a century.

Second, firms and households in G-Cubed must use money issued by central banks for all transactions. Thus, central banks in the model set short-term nominal interest rates to target macroeconomic outcomes (such as inflation, unemployment, exchange rates, etc.) based on Henderson-McKibbin-Taylor monetary rules (Henderson and McKibbin 1993; Taylor 1993). These rules are designed to approximate actual monetary regimes in each country or region in the model. These monetary rules tie down the long-run inflation rates in each country as well as allowing short-term adjustment of policy to smooth fluctuations in the real economy.

Third, nominal wages are sticky and adjust over time based on country-specific labor contracting assumptions. Firms hire labor in each sector up to the point that the marginal product of labor equals the real wage defined in terms of the output price level of that sector. Any excess labor enters the unemployed pool of workers. Unemployment or the presence of excess demand for labor causes the nominal wage to adjust to clear the labor market in the long run. In the short run, unemployment can arise due to structural supply shocks or changes in aggregate demand in the economy.

Fourth, rigidities prevent the economy from moving quickly from one equilibrium to another. These rigidities include nominal stickiness caused by wage rigidities, lack of complete foresight in the formation of expectations, cost of adjustment in investment by firms with physical capital being sector-specific in the short-run, and monetary and fiscal authorities following particular monetary and fiscal rules. Short-term adjustment to economic shocks can be quite different from the long-run equilibrium outcomes. The focus on short-run rigidities is important for assessing the impact over the initial decades of demographic change.

Fifth, we incorporate heterogeneous households and firms. Firms are modeled separately within each sector. There is a mixture of two types of consumers and two types of firms within each sector, within each country: one group that bases its decisions on forward-looking expectations and the other group that follows simpler rules of thumb that are optimal in the long run.

4.  Modeling epidemiologic scenarios in an economic model

We follow the approach in Lee and McKibbin (2004a) and McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006) to convert different assumptions about mortality rates and morbidity rates in the country where the disease outbreak occurs (the epicenter country). Given the epidemiologic assumptions based on previous experience of pandemics, we create a set of filters that convert the shocks into economic shocks: reduced labor supply in each country (mortality and morbidity), rising cost of doing business in each sector including disruption of production networks in each country, consumption reduction due to shifts in consumer preferences over each good from each country (in addition to those changes generated by the model based on change in income and prices), rise in equity risk premia on companies in each sector in each country (based on exposure to the disease), and increases in country risk premia based on exposure to the disease as well as vulnerabilities to changing macroeconomic conditions.

In the remainder of this section, we outline how the various shocks are constructed. Appendix B includes diagrams demonstrating the approach followed when developing the shocks. The overall approach is an extension to McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006). There are, of course, many assumptions in this exercise and the results are sensitive to these assumptions. The goal of the paper is to provide policymakers with some idea of the costs of not intervening and allowing the various scenarios to unfold.

4.1  Epidemiologic assumptions

The attack rates (proportion of the population who are infected), case-fatality rates (proportion of those infected who die), and the implied mortality rate (proportion of total population who die) assumed for China under seven different scenarios are contained in Table 2. Each scenario is given a name (e.g., S01 is Scenario 1).

Table 2.

Epidemiological assumptions for China

ScenarioAttack rate for ChinaCase-fatality rate for ChinaMortality rate for China
S01 1% 2.0% 0.02% 
S02 10% 2.5% 0.25% 
S03 30% 3.0% 0.90% 
S04 10% 2.0% 0.20% 
S05 20% 2.5% 0.50% 
S06 30% 3.0% 0.90% 
S07 10% 2.0% 0.20% 
ScenarioAttack rate for ChinaCase-fatality rate for ChinaMortality rate for China
S01 1% 2.0% 0.02% 
S02 10% 2.5% 0.25% 
S03 30% 3.0% 0.90% 
S04 10% 2.0% 0.20% 
S05 20% 2.5% 0.50% 
S06 30% 3.0% 0.90% 
S07 10% 2.0% 0.20% 

Source:Authors' calculations.

We explore seven scenarios based on the survey of historical pandemics in McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006) and the most recent data on the COVID-19 virus. Table 3 summarizes the scenarios for the disease outbreak. The scenarios vary by attack rate, mortality rate, and the countries experiencing the epidemiologic shocks. Scenarios 1–3 assume the epidemiologic events are isolated to China. The economic impact on China and the spillovers to other countries are through trade, capital flows, and the impacts of changes in risk premia in global financial markets—as determined by the model. In Scenarios 4–6 the epidemiologic shocks occur in all countries in varying degrees. Scenarios 1–6 assume the shocks are temporary. In Scenario 7 a mild pandemic is recurring each year for the indefinite future.

Table 3.

Scenario assumptions

Shocks activated
ScenarioCountries affectedSeverityAttack rate for ChinaCase-fatality rate ChinaNature of shocksChinaOther countries
China Low 1.0% 2.0% Temporary All Risk 
China Mid 10.0% 2.5% Temporary All Risk 
China High 30.0% 3.0% Temporary All Risk 
Global Low 10.0% 2.0% Temporary All All 
Global Mid 20.0% 2.5% Temporary All All 
Global High 30.0% 3.0% Temporary All All 
Global Low 10.0% 2.0% Permanent All All 
Shocks activated
ScenarioCountries affectedSeverityAttack rate for ChinaCase-fatality rate ChinaNature of shocksChinaOther countries
China Low 1.0% 2.0% Temporary All Risk 
China Mid 10.0% 2.5% Temporary All Risk 
China High 30.0% 3.0% Temporary All Risk 
Global Low 10.0% 2.0% Temporary All All 
Global Mid 20.0% 2.5% Temporary All All 
Global High 30.0% 3.0% Temporary All All 
Global Low 10.0% 2.0% Permanent All All 

Source:Authors' calculations.

4.2  Shocks to labor supply

The shock to labor supply in each country includes three components: mortality due to infection, morbidity due to infection, and morbidity arising from caregiving for affected family members. In Scenarios 1–3, for the mortality component, a mortality rate is initially calculated using different attack rates and case-fatality rates for China. These attack rates and case-fatality rates are based on observations during SARS, the approach in McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006) on pandemic influenza, and currently publicly available epidemiologic data for COVID-19.

Index of geography relative to China

Figure 1.
Index of geography relative to China
Figure 1.
Index of geography relative to China
For Scenarios 4–7, we take the Chinese epidemiologic assumptions and scale them for different countries. The scaling is done using an index of vulnerability. This index is then applied to the Chinese mortality rates to obtain country-specific mortality rates. Countries that are more vulnerable than China will have higher rates of mortality and morbidity and countries who are less vulnerable will have lower epidemiologic outcomes. The index of vulnerability is constructed by aggregating an index of geography and an index of health policy, following McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006). The index of geography is the average of two indexes. The first sub-index expresses the urban population density of countries divided by the share of urban population in total population. This is then expressed relative to China. The second sub-index is an index of openness to tourism relative to China. The index of health policy also consists of two components: global health security index and health expenditure per capita relative to China. The global health security index assigns scores to countries according to six criteria, which include the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to epidemics (see Nuclear Threat Initiative et al. 2019). The index of geography and the index of health policy for different countries are presented in Figures 1 and 2, respectively. The lower the value of the index of health policy, the better would be a given country's health standards. A lower value for the index of geography represents a lower risk to a given country.
Figure 2.
Index of health policy relative to China
Figure 2.
Index of health policy relative to China

When calculating the second component of the labor shock, we need to adjust for the problem that the model is an annual model. Days lost therefore have to be annualized. The current recommended isolation period for COVID-19 is 14 days.1 Therefore, we assume an average employee in a country would have to be absent from work for 14 days, if infected. Absence from work indicates a loss of productive capacity for 14 days out of working days for a year. Hence, we calculate an effective attack rate for China, using the attack rate assumed for a given scenario, and the proportion of days absent from work before scaling them across other countries using the index of vulnerability.

The third component of the labor shock accounts for absenteeism from work due to caregiving for family members who are infected. We assume the same effective attack rate as before and that around 70 percent of the female workers would be caregivers to family members. We adjust the effective attack rate using the index of vulnerability and the proportion of labor force who have to care for school-aged children (70 percent of female labor force participation). This does account for school closures. Table 4 contains the labor shocks for countries for different scenarios.

Table 4.

Shock to labor supply for each scenario

Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina — — — −0.65 −1.37 −2.14 −0.65 
Australia — — — −0.48 −1.01 −1.58 −0.48 
Brazil — — — −0.66 −1.37 −2.15 −0.66 
Canada — — — −0.43 −0.89 −1.40 −0.43 
China −0.10 −1.10 −3.44 −1.05 −2.19 −3.44 −1.05 
France — — — −0.52 −1.08 −1.69 −0.52 
Germany — — — −0.51 −1.06 −1.66 −0.51 
India — — — −1.34 −2.82 −4.44 −1.34 
Indonesia — — — −1.39 −2.91 −4.56 −1.39 
Italy — — — −0.48 −1.02 −1.60 −0.48 
Japan — — — −0.50 −1.04 −1.64 −0.50 
Mexico — — — −0.78 −1.64 −2.57 −0.78 
Other Asia — — — −0.88 −1.84 −2.89 −0.88 
Other oil producing countries — — — −0.97 −2.01 −3.13 −0.97 
Republic of Korea — — — −0.56 −1.17 −1.85 −0.56 
Rest of Euro Zone — — — −0.46 −0.97 −1.52 −0.46 
Rest of OECD — — — −0.43 −0.89 −1.39 −0.43 
Rest of the World — — — −1.29 −2.67 −4.16 −1.29 
Russia — — — −0.71 −1.48 −2.31 −0.71 
Saudi Arabia — — — −0.41 −0.87 −1.37 −0.41 
South Africa — — — −0.80 −1.67 −2.61 −0.80 
Turkey — — — −0.76 −1.59 −2.50 −0.76 
United Kingdom — — — −0.53 −1.12 −1.75 −0.53 
United States of America — — — −0.40 −0.83 −1.30 −0.40 
Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina — — — −0.65 −1.37 −2.14 −0.65 
Australia — — — −0.48 −1.01 −1.58 −0.48 
Brazil — — — −0.66 −1.37 −2.15 −0.66 
Canada — — — −0.43 −0.89 −1.40 −0.43 
China −0.10 −1.10 −3.44 −1.05 −2.19 −3.44 −1.05 
France — — — −0.52 −1.08 −1.69 −0.52 
Germany — — — −0.51 −1.06 −1.66 −0.51 
India — — — −1.34 −2.82 −4.44 −1.34 
Indonesia — — — −1.39 −2.91 −4.56 −1.39 
Italy — — — −0.48 −1.02 −1.60 −0.48 
Japan — — — −0.50 −1.04 −1.64 −0.50 
Mexico — — — −0.78 −1.64 −2.57 −0.78 
Other Asia — — — −0.88 −1.84 −2.89 −0.88 
Other oil producing countries — — — −0.97 −2.01 −3.13 −0.97 
Republic of Korea — — — −0.56 −1.17 −1.85 −0.56 
Rest of Euro Zone — — — −0.46 −0.97 −1.52 −0.46 
Rest of OECD — — — −0.43 −0.89 −1.39 −0.43 
Rest of the World — — — −1.29 −2.67 −4.16 −1.29 
Russia — — — −0.71 −1.48 −2.31 −0.71 
Saudi Arabia — — — −0.41 −0.87 −1.37 −0.41 
South Africa — — — −0.80 −1.67 −2.61 −0.80 
Turkey — — — −0.76 −1.59 −2.50 −0.76 
United Kingdom — — — −0.53 −1.12 −1.75 −0.53 
United States of America — — — −0.40 −0.83 −1.30 −0.40 

Source:Authors' calculations.

4.3  Shocks to the equity risk premia of economic sectors

We assume that the announcement of the virus will cause risk premia throughout the world to change. We create risk premia in the United States to approximate the observed initial response to Scenario 1. We then adjust the equity risk shock to all countries across a given scenario by applying the indexes outlined next. We also scale the shock across scenarios by applying the different mortality rate assumptions for the countries.

The equity risk premium shock is the aggregation of the mortality component of the labor shock and a country risk index. The country risk index is the average of three indexes: index of governance risk, index of financial risk, and index of health policy. In developing these indexes, we use the United States as a benchmark due to the prevalence of well-developed financial markets there (Fisman and Love 2004).

The index of governance risk is based on the International Country Risk Guide, which assigns countries scores based on performance in 22 variables across three categories: political, economic, and financial (see PRS Group 2020). The political variables include government stability, as well as the prevalence of conflicts, corruption, and the rule of law. GDP per capita, real GDP growth, and inflation are some of the economic variables considered in the index. Financial variables contained in the index account for exchange rate stability and international liquidity, among others. Figure 3 summarizes the scores for countries for the governance risk index relative to the United States.
Figure 3.
Index of governance relative to the United States
Figure 3.
Index of governance relative to the United States
One of the most widely available indicators of the expected global economic impacts of COVID-19 has been the movement in financial market indices. Since the commencement of the outbreak, financial markets continue to respond to daily developments regarding the outbreak across the world. Particularly, stock markets have been demonstrating investor awareness of industry-specific (unsystematic) impacts. Hence, when developing the equity risk premium shocks for sectors, we include an index of financial risk, even though it is already partially accounted for within the index of governance risk. This higher weight on financial risk enables us to reproduce the prevailing turbulence in financial markets. The index of financial risk uses the current account balance of the countries as a proportion of GDP in 2015. Figure 4 contains the scores for the countries relative to the United States.
Figure 4.
Index of financial risk relative to the United States
Figure 4.
Index of financial risk relative to the United States
Even though construction of the index of health policy follows the procedure described for developing the mortality component of the labor shock (Section 4.2), the United States has been used as the base-country instead of China when developing the shock to the equity risk premia, since the United States is the center of the global financial system and, in the model, all risks are defined relative to the United States. Figure 5 contains the scores for the countries for the index of health policy relative to the United States.
Figure 5.
Index of health policy relative to the United States
Figure 5.
Index of health policy relative to the United States
The net risk index for countries is presented in Figure 6 and shock to equity risk premia for Scenarios 4–7 are presented in Table 5.
Figure 6.
Net country risk index
Figure 6.
Net country risk index
Table 5.

Shock to equity risk premium for Scenarios 4–7

Country/regionS04S05S06S07
Argentina 1.90 2.07 2.30 1.90 
Australia 1.23 1.37 1.54 1.23 
Brazil 1.59 1.78 2.03 1.59 
Canada 1.23 1.36 1.52 1.23 
China 1.97 2.27 2.67 1.97 
France 1.27 1.40 1.59 1.27 
Germany 1.07 1.21 1.41 1.07 
India 2.20 2.62 3.18 2.20 
Indonesia 2.06 2.43 2.93 2.06 
Italy 1.32 1.47 1.66 1.32 
Japan 1.18 1.33 1.53 1.18 
Mexico 1.76 1.98 2.27 1.76 
Other Asia 1.51 1.75 2.07 1.51 
Other oil producing countries 2.03 2.25 2.55 2.03 
Republic of Korea 1.25 1.43 1.67 1.25 
Rest of euro zone 1.29 1.42 1.60 1.29 
Rest of OECD 1.11 1.22 1.38 1.11 
Rest of the world 2.21 2.51 2.91 2.21 
Russia 1.77 1.96 2.22 1.77 
Saudi Arabia 1.38 1.52 1.70 1.38 
South Africa 1.85 2.06 2.33 1.85 
Turkey 1.98 2.20 2.50 1.98 
United Kingdom 1.35 1.50 1.70 1.35 
United States of America 1.07 1.18 1.33 1.07 
Country/regionS04S05S06S07
Argentina 1.90 2.07 2.30 1.90 
Australia 1.23 1.37 1.54 1.23 
Brazil 1.59 1.78 2.03 1.59 
Canada 1.23 1.36 1.52 1.23 
China 1.97 2.27 2.67 1.97 
France 1.27 1.40 1.59 1.27 
Germany 1.07 1.21 1.41 1.07 
India 2.20 2.62 3.18 2.20 
Indonesia 2.06 2.43 2.93 2.06 
Italy 1.32 1.47 1.66 1.32 
Japan 1.18 1.33 1.53 1.18 
Mexico 1.76 1.98 2.27 1.76 
Other Asia 1.51 1.75 2.07 1.51 
Other oil producing countries 2.03 2.25 2.55 2.03 
Republic of Korea 1.25 1.43 1.67 1.25 
Rest of euro zone 1.29 1.42 1.60 1.29 
Rest of OECD 1.11 1.22 1.38 1.11 
Rest of the world 2.21 2.51 2.91 2.21 
Russia 1.77 1.96 2.22 1.77 
Saudi Arabia 1.38 1.52 1.70 1.38 
South Africa 1.85 2.06 2.33 1.85 
Turkey 1.98 2.20 2.50 1.98 
United Kingdom 1.35 1.50 1.70 1.35 
United States of America 1.07 1.18 1.33 1.07 

Source:Authors' calculations.

4.4  Shocks to cost of production in each sector

As well as the shock to labor inputs, we observe that other inputs such as trade, land transport, air transport, and sea transport have also been significantly affected by the outbreak. Thus, we calculate the share of inputs from these exposed sub-sectors to the six broad sectors of the model and compare their contribution relative to China. We then benchmark the percentage increase in the cost of production in Chinese production sectors during SARS to the first scenario and scale the percentage across scenarios to match the changes in the mortality component of the labor shock. Variable shares of inputs from the exposed sub-sectors to the broad sectors also allow us to vary the shock across broad sectors in the countries. Table 6 contains the shocks to the cost of production in each sector in each country due to the share of inputs from the exposed sectors for Scenario 4.

Table 6.

Shock to cost of production for Scenario 4

Country/regionEnergyMiningAgricultureDurable manufacturingNon-durable manufacturingServices
Argentina 0.37 0.24 0.37 0.35 0.40 0.38 
Australia 0.43 0.43 0.42 0.39 0.41 0.45 
Brazil 0.44 0.46 0.44 0.42 0.45 0.44 
Canada 0.44 0.37 0.42 0.40 0.41 0.44 
China 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 
France 0.38 0.31 0.36 0.40 0.42 0.46 
Germany 0.43 0.37 0.40 0.45 0.45 0.47 
India 0.47 0.33 0.47 0.42 0.45 0.43 
Indonesia 0.37 0.33 0.31 0.36 0.40 0.38 
Italy 0.36 0.33 0.38 0.42 0.44 0.46 
Japan 0.45 0.40 0.45 0.47 0.47 0.49 
Mexico 0.41 0.38 0.39 0.42 0.42 0.41 
Other Asia 0.44 0.39 0.44 0.45 0.45 0.47 
Other oil producing countries 0.49 0.41 0.47 0.40 0.43 0.45 
Republic of Korea 0.39 0.30 0.37 0.43 0.42 0.43 
Rest of euro zone 0.42 0.41 0.43 0.43 0.46 0.48 
Rest of OECD 0.42 0.38 0.41 0.41 0.43 0.46 
Rest of the world 0.52 0.46 0.51 0.45 0.49 0.48 
Russia 0.54 0.37 0.43 0.41 0.42 0.45 
Saudi Arabia 0.32 0.25 0.29 0.29 0.25 0.35 
South Africa 0.40 0.35 0.39 0.41 0.43 0.38 
Turkey 0.37 0.36 0.39 0.39 0.42 0.42 
United Kingdom 0.39 0.37 0.39 0.39 0.42 0.46 
United States of America 0.53 0.40 0.51 0.50 0.51 0.53 
Country/regionEnergyMiningAgricultureDurable manufacturingNon-durable manufacturingServices
Argentina 0.37 0.24 0.37 0.35 0.40 0.38 
Australia 0.43 0.43 0.42 0.39 0.41 0.45 
Brazil 0.44 0.46 0.44 0.42 0.45 0.44 
Canada 0.44 0.37 0.42 0.40 0.41 0.44 
China 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50 
France 0.38 0.31 0.36 0.40 0.42 0.46 
Germany 0.43 0.37 0.40 0.45 0.45 0.47 
India 0.47 0.33 0.47 0.42 0.45 0.43 
Indonesia 0.37 0.33 0.31 0.36 0.40 0.38 
Italy 0.36 0.33 0.38 0.42 0.44 0.46 
Japan 0.45 0.40 0.45 0.47 0.47 0.49 
Mexico 0.41 0.38 0.39 0.42 0.42 0.41 
Other Asia 0.44 0.39 0.44 0.45 0.45 0.47 
Other oil producing countries 0.49 0.41 0.47 0.40 0.43 0.45 
Republic of Korea 0.39 0.30 0.37 0.43 0.42 0.43 
Rest of euro zone 0.42 0.41 0.43 0.43 0.46 0.48 
Rest of OECD 0.42 0.38 0.41 0.41 0.43 0.46 
Rest of the world 0.52 0.46 0.51 0.45 0.49 0.48 
Russia 0.54 0.37 0.43 0.41 0.42 0.45 
Saudi Arabia 0.32 0.25 0.29 0.29 0.25 0.35 
South Africa 0.40 0.35 0.39 0.41 0.43 0.38 
Turkey 0.37 0.36 0.39 0.39 0.42 0.42 
United Kingdom 0.39 0.37 0.39 0.39 0.42 0.46 
United States of America 0.53 0.40 0.51 0.50 0.51 0.53 

Source:Authors' calculations.

4.5  Shocks to consumption demand

The G-Cubed model endogenously changes spending patterns in response to changes in income, wealth, and relative price changes. However, independent of these variables, during an outbreak, it is likely that preferences for certain activities will change with the outbreak. Following McKibbin and Sidorenko (2006), we assume that the reduction in spending on those activities will reduce the overall spending, hence saving money for future expenditure. In modeling this behavior, we apply a sector exposure index. The index is calculated as the share of exposed sub-sectors: trade, land, air and sea transport and recreation, within the GDP of a country relative to China. The reduction in consumption expenditure during the SARS outbreak in China is used as the benchmark for the first scenario. This benchmark is then scaled across other scenarios relative to the mortality component of the labor shock and adjusted across countries through the different sectoral exposures. Figure 7 contains the sector exposure indices for the countries and the shock to consumption demand is presented in Table 7. Note that CBO (2005) uses a shock of 3 percent to consumption in the United States from an H5N1 influenza pandemic, which lies among our estimates for Scenarios 5 and 6, as observed in Table 7.
Figure 7.
Index of exposure to affected activities
Figure 7.
Index of exposure to affected activities
Table 7.

Shock to consumption demand for Scenarios 4–7

Country/regionS04S05S06S07
Argentina −0.83 −2.09 −3.76 −0.83 
Australia −0.90 −2.26 −4.07 −0.90 
Brazil −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Canada −0.90 −2.26 −4.07 −0.90 
China −1.00 −2.50 −4.50 −1.00 
France −0.93 −2.31 −4.16 −0.93 
Germany −0.95 −2.36 −4.25 −0.95 
India −0.91 −2.29 −4.11 −0.91 
Indonesia −0.86 −2.15 −3.86 −0.86 
Italy −0.93 −2.32 −4.18 −0.93 
Japan −1.01 −2.51 −4.52 −1.01 
Mexico −0.89 −2.22 −4.00 −0.89 
Other Asia −0.95 −2.38 −4.28 −0.95 
Other oil producing countries −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Republic of Korea −0.89 −2.23 −4.01 −0.89 
Rest of euro zone −0.98 −2.45 −4.40 −0.98 
Rest of OECD −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Rest of the world −0.98 −2.45 −4.42 −0.98 
Russia −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Saudi Arabia −0.74 −1.86 −3.35 −0.74 
South Africa −0.82 −2.05 −3.69 −0.82 
Turkey −0.88 −2.19 −3.95 −0.88 
United Kingdom −0.94 −2.34 −4.22 −0.94 
United States of America −1.06 −2.66 −4.78 −1.06 
Country/regionS04S05S06S07
Argentina −0.83 −2.09 −3.76 −0.83 
Australia −0.90 −2.26 −4.07 −0.90 
Brazil −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Canada −0.90 −2.26 −4.07 −0.90 
China −1.00 −2.50 −4.50 −1.00 
France −0.93 −2.31 −4.16 −0.93 
Germany −0.95 −2.36 −4.25 −0.95 
India −0.91 −2.29 −4.11 −0.91 
Indonesia −0.86 −2.15 −3.86 −0.86 
Italy −0.93 −2.32 −4.18 −0.93 
Japan −1.01 −2.51 −4.52 −1.01 
Mexico −0.89 −2.22 −4.00 −0.89 
Other Asia −0.95 −2.38 −4.28 −0.95 
Other oil producing countries −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Republic of Korea −0.89 −2.23 −4.01 −0.89 
Rest of euro zone −0.98 −2.45 −4.40 −0.98 
Rest of OECD −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Rest of the world −0.98 −2.45 −4.42 −0.98 
Russia −0.92 −2.31 −4.16 −0.92 
Saudi Arabia −0.74 −1.86 −3.35 −0.74 
South Africa −0.82 −2.05 −3.69 −0.82 
Turkey −0.88 −2.19 −3.95 −0.88 
United Kingdom −0.94 −2.34 −4.22 −0.94 
United States of America −1.06 −2.66 −4.78 −1.06 

Source: Authors' Calculations

4.6  Shocks to government expenditure

With the previous experience of pandemics, governments across the world have exercised a stronger caution toward the outbreak by taking measures, such as strengthening health screening at ports and investments in strengthening healthcare infrastructure, to prevent the outbreak reaching additional countries. They have also responded by increasing health expenditures to contain the spread. In modeling these interventions by governments, we use the change in Chinese government expenditure relative to GDP in 2003 during the SARS outbreak as a benchmark and use the average of index of governance and index of health policy to obtain the potential increase in government expenditure in other countries. We then scale the shock across scenarios using the mortality component of the labor shock. Table 8 demonstrates the magnitude of the government expenditure shocks for countries for Scenarios 4–7.

Table 8.

Shock to government expenditure for Scenarios 4–7

Country/regionS04S05S06S07
Argentina 0.39 0.98 1.76 0.39 
Australia 0.27 0.67 1.21 0.27 
Brazil 0.39 0.98 1.76 0.39 
Canada 0.26 0.66 1.19 0.26 
China 0.50 1.25 2.25 0.50 
France 0.30 0.74 1.34 0.30 
Germany 0.27 0.68 1.22 0.27 
India 0.52 1.30 2.34 0.52 
Indonesia 0.47 1.18 2.12 0.47 
Italy 0.34 0.84 1.51 0.34 
Japan 0.30 0.74 1.33 0.30 
Mexico 0.43 1.07 1.93 0.43 
Other Asia 0.39 0.99 1.77 0.39 
Other oil producing countries 0.54 1.35 2.42 0.54 
Republic of Korea 0.31 0.79 1.41 0.31 
Rest of euro zone 0.33 0.81 1.46 0.33 
Rest of OECD 0.28 0.70 1.26 0.28 
Rest of the world 0.59 1.49 2.67 0.59 
Russia 0.49 1.23 2.21 0.49 
Saudi Arabia 0.38 0.95 1.71 0.38 
South Africa 0.43 1.08 1.94 0.43 
Turkey 0.47 1.17 2.11 0.47 
United Kingdom 0.27 0.68 1.22 0.27 
United States of America 0.22 0.54 0.98 0.22 
Country/regionS04S05S06S07
Argentina 0.39 0.98 1.76 0.39 
Australia 0.27 0.67 1.21 0.27 
Brazil 0.39 0.98 1.76 0.39 
Canada 0.26 0.66 1.19 0.26 
China 0.50 1.25 2.25 0.50 
France 0.30 0.74 1.34 0.30 
Germany 0.27 0.68 1.22 0.27 
India 0.52 1.30 2.34 0.52 
Indonesia 0.47 1.18 2.12 0.47 
Italy 0.34 0.84 1.51 0.34 
Japan 0.30 0.74 1.33 0.30 
Mexico 0.43 1.07 1.93 0.43 
Other Asia 0.39 0.99 1.77 0.39 
Other oil producing countries 0.54 1.35 2.42 0.54 
Republic of Korea 0.31 0.79 1.41 0.31 
Rest of euro zone 0.33 0.81 1.46 0.33 
Rest of OECD 0.28 0.70 1.26 0.28 
Rest of the world 0.59 1.49 2.67 0.59 
Russia 0.49 1.23 2.21 0.49 
Saudi Arabia 0.38 0.95 1.71 0.38 
South Africa 0.43 1.08 1.94 0.43 
Turkey 0.47 1.17 2.11 0.47 
United Kingdom 0.27 0.68 1.22 0.27 
United States of America 0.22 0.54 0.98 0.22 

Source:Authors' calculations.

5.  Simulation results

5.1  Baseline scenario

We first solve the model from 2016 to 2100 with 2015 as the base year. The key inputs into the baseline are the initial dynamics from 2015 to 2016 and subsequent projections from 2016 forward for labor-augmenting technological progress by sector and by country. The labor-augmenting technology projections follow the approach of Barro (1991). Over long periods, Barro estimates the average catch-up rate of individual countries to the world-wide productivity frontier at 2 percent per year. We use the Groningen Growth and Development database (2018) to estimate the initial level of productivity in each sector of each region in the model. Given this initial productivity, we then take the ratio of this to the equivalent sector in the United States, which we assume is the frontier. Given this initial gap in sectoral productivity, we use the Barro catch-up model to generate long-term projections of the productivity growth rate of each sector within each country. Where we expect that regions will catch up more quickly to the frontier due to economic reforms (e.g., China) or more slowly to the frontier due to institutional rigidities (e.g., Russia), we vary the catch-up rate over time. The calibration of the catch-up rate attempts to replicate recent growth experiences of each country and region in the model.

The exogenous sectoral productivity growth rate, together with the economy-wide growth in labor supply, are the exogenous drivers of sector growth for each country. The growth in the capital stock in each sector in each region is determined endogenously within the model.

In the alternative COVID-19 scenarios, we incorporate the range of shocks discussed above to model the economic consequences of different epidemiologic assumptions. All results are the difference between the COVID-19 scenario and the baseline of the model.

5.2  Results

Table 9 contains the impact on populations in different regions. These are the core shocks that are combined with the various indicators to create the seven scenarios. The mortality rates for each country under each scenario are contained in Appendix C.

Table 9.

Mortality in 2020 under each scenario

Population (thousands)Mortality in 2020 (thousands)
Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina 43,418 — — — 50 126 226 50 
Australia 23,800 — — — 21 53 96 21 
Brazil 205,962 — — — 257 641 1,154 257 
Canada 35,950 — — — 30 74 133 30 
China 1,397,029 279 3,493 12,573 2,794 6,985 12,573 2,794 
France 64,457 — — — 60 149 268 60 
Germany 81,708 — — — 79 198 357 79 
India 1,309,054 — — — 3,693 9,232 16,617 3,693 
Indonesia 258,162 — — — 647 1,616 2,909 647 
Italy 59,504 — — — 59 147 265 59 
Japan 127,975 — — — 127 317 570 127 
Mexico 125,891 — — — 184 460 828 184 
Other Asia 330,935 — — — 530 1,324 2,384 530 
Other oil producing countries 517,452 — — — 774 1,936 3,485 774 
Republic of Korea 50,594 — — — 61 151 272 61 
Rest of euro zone 117,427 — — — 106 265 478 106 
Rest of OECD 33,954 — — — 27 67 121 27 
Rest of the world 2,505,604 — — — 4,986 12,464 22,435 4,986 
Russia 143,888 — — — 186 465 837 186 
Saudi Arabia 31,557 — — — 29 71 128 29 
South Africa 55,291 — — — 75 187 337 75 
Turkey 78,271 — — — 116 290 522 116 
United Kingdom 65,397 — — — 64 161 290 64 
United States of America 319,929 — — — 236 589 1,060 236 
Total 7,983,209 279 3,493 12,573 15,188 37,971 68,347 15,188 
Population (thousands)Mortality in 2020 (thousands)
Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina 43,418 — — — 50 126 226 50 
Australia 23,800 — — — 21 53 96 21 
Brazil 205,962 — — — 257 641 1,154 257 
Canada 35,950 — — — 30 74 133 30 
China 1,397,029 279 3,493 12,573 2,794 6,985 12,573 2,794 
France 64,457 — — — 60 149 268 60 
Germany 81,708 — — — 79 198 357 79 
India 1,309,054 — — — 3,693 9,232 16,617 3,693 
Indonesia 258,162 — — — 647 1,616 2,909 647 
Italy 59,504 — — — 59 147 265 59 
Japan 127,975 — — — 127 317 570 127 
Mexico 125,891 — — — 184 460 828 184 
Other Asia 330,935 — — — 530 1,324 2,384 530 
Other oil producing countries 517,452 — — — 774 1,936 3,485 774 
Republic of Korea 50,594 — — — 61 151 272 61 
Rest of euro zone 117,427 — — — 106 265 478 106 
Rest of OECD 33,954 — — — 27 67 121 27 
Rest of the world 2,505,604 — — — 4,986 12,464 22,435 4,986 
Russia 143,888 — — — 186 465 837 186 
Saudi Arabia 31,557 — — — 29 71 128 29 
South Africa 55,291 — — — 75 187 337 75 
Turkey 78,271 — — — 116 290 522 116 
United Kingdom 65,397 — — — 64 161 290 64 
United States of America 319,929 — — — 236 589 1,060 236 
Total 7,983,209 279 3,493 12,573 15,188 37,971 68,347 15,188 

Source:Authors' calculations.

Table 9 shows that for even the lowest of the pandemic scenarios (S04), there are estimated to be around 15 million deaths. In the United States, the estimate is 236,000 deaths. These estimated deaths from COVID-19 can be compared to a regular influenza season in the United States, where around 55,000 people die each year.

Tables 10 and 11 provide a summary of the overall GDP loss for each country/region under the seven scenarios. The results in Table 10 are the change in GDP in 2020 expressed as a percentage change from the baseline. The results in Table 11 are the results from Table 10 converted into billions of 2020 U.S. dollars.

Table 10.

GDP loss in 2020 (percent deviation from the baseline)

Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina −0.20 −0.30 −0.50 −1.60 −3.50 −6.00 −1.20 
Australia −0.30 −0.40 −0.70 −2.10 −4.60 −7.90 −2.00 
Brazil −0.30 −0.30 −0.50 −2.10 −4.70 −8.00 −1.90 
Canada −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.80 −4.10 −7.10 −1.60 
China −0.40 −1.90 −6.00 −1.60 −3.60 −6.20 −2.20 
France −0.20 −0.30 −0.30 −2.00 −4.60 −8.00 −1.50 
Germany −0.20 −0.30 −0.50 −2.20 −5.00 −8.70 −1.70 
India −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.40 −3.10 −5.30 −1.30 
Indonesia −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −1.30 −2.80 −4.70 −1.30 
Italy −0.20 −0.30 −0.40 −2.10 −4.80 −8.30 −2.20 
Japan −0.30 −0.40 −0.50 −2.50 −5.70 −9.90 −2.00 
Mexico −0.10 −0.10 −0.10 −0.90 −2.20 −3.80 −0.90 
Other Asia −0.10 −0.20 −0.40 −1.60 −3.60 −6.30 −1.50 
Other oil producing countries −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.40 −3.20 −5.50 −1.30 
Republic of Korea −0.10 −0.20 −0.30 −1.40 −3.30 −5.80 −1.30 
Rest of euro zone −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −2.10 −4.80 −8.40 −1.90 
Rest of OECD −0.30 −0.30 −0.50 −2.00 −4.40 −7.70 −1.80 
Rest of the world −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −1.50 −3.50 −5.90 −1.50 
Russia −0.20 −0.30 −0.50 −2.00 −4.60 −8.00 −1.90 
Saudi Arabia −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −0.70 −1.40 −2.40 −1.30 
South Africa −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.80 −4.00 −7.00 −1.50 
Turkey −0.10 −0.20 −0.20 −1.40 −3.20 −5.50 −1.20 
United Kingdom −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −1.50 −3.50 −6.00 −1.20 
United States of America −0.10 −0.10 −0.20 −2.00 −4.80 −8.40 −1.50 
Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina −0.20 −0.30 −0.50 −1.60 −3.50 −6.00 −1.20 
Australia −0.30 −0.40 −0.70 −2.10 −4.60 −7.90 −2.00 
Brazil −0.30 −0.30 −0.50 −2.10 −4.70 −8.00 −1.90 
Canada −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.80 −4.10 −7.10 −1.60 
China −0.40 −1.90 −6.00 −1.60 −3.60 −6.20 −2.20 
France −0.20 −0.30 −0.30 −2.00 −4.60 −8.00 −1.50 
Germany −0.20 −0.30 −0.50 −2.20 −5.00 −8.70 −1.70 
India −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.40 −3.10 −5.30 −1.30 
Indonesia −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −1.30 −2.80 −4.70 −1.30 
Italy −0.20 −0.30 −0.40 −2.10 −4.80 −8.30 −2.20 
Japan −0.30 −0.40 −0.50 −2.50 −5.70 −9.90 −2.00 
Mexico −0.10 −0.10 −0.10 −0.90 −2.20 −3.80 −0.90 
Other Asia −0.10 −0.20 −0.40 −1.60 −3.60 −6.30 −1.50 
Other oil producing countries −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.40 −3.20 −5.50 −1.30 
Republic of Korea −0.10 −0.20 −0.30 −1.40 −3.30 −5.80 −1.30 
Rest of euro zone −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −2.10 −4.80 −8.40 −1.90 
Rest of OECD −0.30 −0.30 −0.50 −2.00 −4.40 −7.70 −1.80 
Rest of the world −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −1.50 −3.50 −5.90 −1.50 
Russia −0.20 −0.30 −0.50 −2.00 −4.60 −8.00 −1.90 
Saudi Arabia −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −0.70 −1.40 −2.40 −1.30 
South Africa −0.20 −0.20 −0.40 −1.80 −4.00 −7.00 −1.50 
Turkey −0.10 −0.20 −0.20 −1.40 −3.20 −5.50 −1.20 
United Kingdom −0.20 −0.20 −0.30 −1.50 −3.50 −6.00 −1.20 
United States of America −0.10 −0.10 −0.20 −2.00 −4.80 −8.40 −1.50 

Source:Authors' calculations.

Table 11.

GDP loss in 2020 (US$ billion)

Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina −2 −3 −5 −15 −33 −56 −11 
Australia −4 −5 −9 −27 −60 −103 −27 
Brazil −9 −12 −19 −72 −161 −275 −65 
Canada −3 −4 −6 −32 −74 −128 −28 
China −95 −488 −1,564 −426 −946 −1,618 −560 
France −7 −8 −11 −63 −144 −250 −46 
Germany −11 −14 −21 −99 −225 −390 −78 
India −21 −26 −40 −152 −334 −567 −142 
Indonesia −6 −7 −11 −45 −99 −167 −46 
Italy −6 −7 −9 −54 −123 −214 −56 
Japan −17 −20 −28 −140 −318 −549 −113 
Mexico −2 −2 −3 −24 −57 −98 −24 
Other Asia −6 −10 −19 −80 −186 −324 −77 
Other oil producing countries −10 −12 −18 −73 −164 −282 −69 
Republic of Korea −3 −4 −7 −31 −71 −124 −29 
Rest of euro zone −11 −13 −19 −111 −256 −446 −101 
Rest of OECD −5 −6 −10 −40 −91 −157 −36 
Rest of the world −24 −29 −43 −234 −529 −906 −227 
Russia −10 −12 −19 −84 −191 −331 −81 
Saudi Arabia −3 −3 −5 −12 −24 −40 −22 
South Africa −1 −2 −3 −14 −33 −57 −12 
Turkey −3 −4 −6 −33 −75 −130 −30 
United Kingdom −5 −6 −9 −48 −108 −187 −39 
United States of America −16 −22 −40 −420 −1,004 −1,769 −314 
Total −283 −720 −1,922 −2,330 −5,305 −9,170 −2,230 
Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina −2 −3 −5 −15 −33 −56 −11 
Australia −4 −5 −9 −27 −60 −103 −27 
Brazil −9 −12 −19 −72 −161 −275 −65 
Canada −3 −4 −6 −32 −74 −128 −28 
China −95 −488 −1,564 −426 −946 −1,618 −560 
France −7 −8 −11 −63 −144 −250 −46 
Germany −11 −14 −21 −99 −225 −390 −78 
India −21 −26 −40 −152 −334 −567 −142 
Indonesia −6 −7 −11 −45 −99 −167 −46 
Italy −6 −7 −9 −54 −123 −214 −56 
Japan −17 −20 −28 −140 −318 −549 −113 
Mexico −2 −2 −3 −24 −57 −98 −24 
Other Asia −6 −10 −19 −80 −186 −324 −77 
Other oil producing countries −10 −12 −18 −73 −164 −282 −69 
Republic of Korea −3 −4 −7 −31 −71 −124 −29 
Rest of euro zone −11 −13 −19 −111 −256 −446 −101 
Rest of OECD −5 −6 −10 −40 −91 −157 −36 
Rest of the world −24 −29 −43 −234 −529 −906 −227 
Russia −10 −12 −19 −84 −191 −331 −81 
Saudi Arabia −3 −3 −5 −12 −24 −40 −22 
South Africa −1 −2 −3 −14 −33 −57 −12 
Turkey −3 −4 −6 −33 −75 −130 −30 
United Kingdom −5 −6 −9 −48 −108 −187 −39 
United States of America −16 −22 −40 −420 −1,004 −1,769 −314 
Total −283 −720 −1,922 −2,330 −5,305 −9,170 −2,230 

Source:Authors' calculations.

Tables 10 and 11 illustrate the scale of the various pandemic scenarios on reducing GDP in the global economy. Even a low-end pandemic modeled on the Hong Kong flu is expected to reduce global GDP by around US$ 2.4 trillion and a more serious outbreak similar to the Spanish flu reduces global GDP by over US$ 9 trillion in 2020.

Figures 8,910 provide the time profile of the results for several countries. The patterns in the figures represent the nature of the assumed shocks, which for the first six scenarios are expected to disappear over time. Figure 8 contains results for China under each scenario. We present results for real GDP, private investment, consumption, the trade balance, and then the short real interest rate and the value of the equity market for the durable manufacturing sector. Figure 9 contains the results for the United States and Figure 10 for Australia.
Figure 8.
Dynamic results for China
Figure 8.
Dynamic results for China
Figure 9.
Dynamic results for the United States
Figure 9.
Dynamic results for the United States
Figure 10.
Dynamic results for Australia
Figure 10.
Dynamic results for Australia

The shocks that make up the pandemic cause a sharp drop in consumption and investment. The decline in aggregate demand, together with the original risk shocks, cause a sharp drop in equity markets. The funds from equity markets are partly shifted into bonds, partly into cash, and partly overseas depending on which markets are most affected. Central banks respond by cutting interest rates, which together with the increased demand for bonds from the portfolio shift drives down the real interest rate. Equity markets drop sharply both because of the rise in risk as well as due to the expected economic slowdown and the fall in expected profits. For each scenario, there is a V-shape recovery except for Scenario 7. Recall that Scenario 7 is the same as Scenario 4 in year 1, but with the expectation that the pandemic will recur each year into the future.8

Similar patterns can be seen in the dynamic results for the United States and Australia shown in Figures 9 and 10. The quantitative magnitudes differ across countries, but the pattern of a sharp shock followed by a gradual recovery are common across countries. The improvement in the trade balance of China and deterioration in the U.S. trade balance reflect the global reallocation of financial capital as a result for the shock. Capital flows out of severely affected economies like China and other developing and emerging economies into safer advanced economies like the United States, Europe, and Australia. This movement of capital tends to appreciate the exchange rate of countries that are receiving capital and depreciate the exchange rates of countries that are losing capital. The deprecation of the exchange rate increases exports and reduces imports in the countries losing capital and hence lead to the current account adjustment that is consistent with the capital account adjustment.

These results are extremely sensitive to the assumptions in the model, to the shocks we feed in, and to the assumed macroeconomic policy responses in each country. Central banks are assumed to respond according to a Henderson-McKibbin-Taylor rule, which differs across countries (see McKibbin and Triggs 2018). Fiscal authorities are allowing automatic stabilizers to increase budget deficits but cover additional debt servicing costs with a lump-sum tax levied on households over time. In addition, there is the fiscal spending increase assumed in the shock design outlined above.

6.  Conclusions and policy implications

This paper has presented some preliminary estimates of the cost of the COVID-19 outbreak under seven different scenarios of how the disease might evolve. The goal is not to be definitive about the virus outbreak but to provide important information about a range of possible economic costs of the disease. At the time of writing this paper, the probability of any of these scenarios and the range of plausible alternatives are highly uncertain. In the case where COVID-19 develops into a global pandemic, our results suggest that the cost can escalate quickly.

A range of policy responses will be required both in the short term as well as in the coming years. In the short term, central banks and treasuries need to make sure that disrupted economies continue to function while the disease outbreak continues. In the face of real and financial stress, there is a critical role for governments. While cutting interest rates is a possible response for central banks, the shock is not only a demand management problem but a multifaceted crisis that will require monetary, fiscal, and health policy responses. Quarantining affected people and reducing large-scale social interaction is an effective response. Wide dissemination of good hygiene practices as outlined in Levine and McKibbin (2020) can be a low-cost and highly effective response that can reduce the extent of contagion and, therefore, reduce the social and economic cost.

The longer-term responses are even more important. Despite the potential loss of life and the possible large-scale disruption to a large number of people, many governments have been reluctant to invest sufficiently in their health care systems, let alone public health systems in less-developed countries where many infectious diseases are likely to originate. Experts have warned and continue to warn that zoonotic diseases will continue to pose a threat to the lives of millions of people with potentially major disruptions to an integrated world economy. The idea that any country can be an island in an integrated global economy is proven wrong by the latest outbreak of COVID-19. Global cooperation, especially in the sphere of public health and economic development, is essential. All major countries need to participate actively. It is too late to act once the disease has taken hold in many other countries and attempt to close borders once a pandemic has started.

Poverty kills poor people, but the outbreak of COVID-19 shows that diseases can be generated in poor countries due to overcrowding, poor public health, and the interactions with wild animals, and can kill people of any socioeconomic group in any society. There needs to be vastly more investment in public health and development in the richest but also—and especially—in the poorest countries. This study indicates the possible costs that can be avoided through global cooperative investment in public health in all countries. We have known this critical policy intervention for decades, yet politicians continue to ignore the scientific evidence on the role of public health in improving the quality of life and as a driver of economic growth.

Note

1 

There is evidence that this figure could be close to 21 days. This would increase the scale of the shock.

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Appendix A.  Countries and regions in the G-cubed model version G20

Argentina

Australia

Brazil

Canada

China

France

Germany

India

Indonesia

Italy

Japan

Mexico

Oil-exporting and the Middle East

Other Asia

Republic of Korea

Rest of advanced economies

Rest of euro zone

Rest of world

Russia

Saudi Arabia

South Africa

Turkey

United Kingdom

United States

Rest of euro zone:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain

Rest of advanced economies:

Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland

Oil-exporting and the Middle East:

Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Congo, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Palestinian Territory, Qatar, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yemen

Other Asia:

Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Rest of world:

All countries not included in other groups.

Appendix B.  Shock formulation diagrams

Appendix C.  Mortality rates for each country under each scenario

Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina — — — 0.12% 0.29% 0.52% 0.12% 
Australia — — — 0.09% 0.22% 0.40% 0.09% 
Brazil — — — 0.12% 0.31% 0.56% 0.12% 
Canada — — — 0.08% 0.21% 0.37% 0.08% 
China 0.02% 0.25% 0.90% 0.20% 0.50% 0.90% 0.20% 
France — — — 0.09% 0.23% 0.42% 0.09% 
Germany — — — 0.10% 0.24% 0.44% 0.10% 
India — — — 0.28% 0.71% 1.27% 0.28% 
Indonesia — — — 0.25% 0.63% 1.13% 0.25% 
Italy — — — 0.10% 0.25% 0.45% 0.10% 
Japan — — — 0.10% 0.25% 0.45% 0.10% 
Mexico — — — 0.15% 0.37% 0.66% 0.15% 
Other Asia — — — 0.16% 0.40% 0.72% 0.16% 
Other oil producing countries — — — 0.15% 0.37% 0.67% 0.15% 
Republic of Korea — — — 0.12% 0.30% 0.54% 0.12% 
Rest of euro zone — — — 0.09% 0.23% 0.41% 0.09% 
Rest of OECD — — — 0.08% 0.20% 0.36% 0.08% 
Rest of the world — — — 0.20% 0.50% 0.90% 0.20% 
Russia — — — 0.13% 0.32% 0.58% 0.13% 
Saudi Arabia — — — 0.09% 0.23% 0.41% 0.09% 
South Africa — — — 0.14% 0.34% 0.61% 0.14% 
Turkey — — — 0.15% 0.37% 0.67% 0.15% 
United Kingdom — — — 0.10% 0.25% 0.44% 0.10% 
United States of America — — — 0.07% 0.18% 0.33% 0.07% 
Country/regionS01S02S03S04S05S06S07
Argentina — — — 0.12% 0.29% 0.52% 0.12% 
Australia — — — 0.09% 0.22% 0.40% 0.09% 
Brazil — — — 0.12% 0.31% 0.56% 0.12% 
Canada — — — 0.08% 0.21% 0.37% 0.08% 
China 0.02% 0.25% 0.90% 0.20% 0.50% 0.90% 0.20% 
France — — — 0.09% 0.23% 0.42% 0.09% 
Germany — — — 0.10% 0.24% 0.44% 0.10% 
India — — — 0.28% 0.71% 1.27% 0.28% 
Indonesia — — — 0.25% 0.63% 1.13% 0.25% 
Italy — — — 0.10% 0.25% 0.45% 0.10% 
Japan — — — 0.10% 0.25% 0.45% 0.10% 
Mexico — — — 0.15% 0.37% 0.66% 0.15% 
Other Asia — — — 0.16% 0.40% 0.72% 0.16% 
Other oil producing countries — — — 0.15% 0.37% 0.67% 0.15% 
Republic of Korea — — — 0.12% 0.30% 0.54% 0.12% 
Rest of euro zone — — — 0.09% 0.23% 0.41% 0.09% 
Rest of OECD — — — 0.08% 0.20% 0.36% 0.08% 
Rest of the world — — — 0.20% 0.50% 0.90% 0.20% 
Russia — — — 0.13% 0.32% 0.58% 0.13% 
Saudi Arabia — — — 0.09% 0.23% 0.41% 0.09% 
South Africa — — — 0.14% 0.34% 0.61% 0.14% 
Turkey — — — 0.15% 0.37% 0.67% 0.15% 
United Kingdom — — — 0.10% 0.25% 0.44% 0.10% 
United States of America — — — 0.07% 0.18% 0.33% 0.07% 

Source:Authors' calculations.