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How to Spend $12 Trillion

Although some government pandemic-support programs have combined ambitious design with effective delivery, many fall short in one or both areas. Those that designed programs optimally and delivered them quickly have financial infrastructure that includes three key features.

SAN FRANCISCO/MUMBAI – Even before the passage of the latest stimulus bill in the United States, governments around the world have offered almost $12 trillion in financial aid to businesses and households affected by COVID-19, equivalent to 12% of global GDP. But how well have they delivered that unprecedented amount of assistance to the intended recipients? And what lessons do these efforts hold for the future?

Many are asking such questions, from policymakers and fintech innovators to economists and civil-society watchdogs. We recently sought answers by analyzing 12 government pandemic-support programs, for both individuals and small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), in seven countries – Brazil, India, Nigeria, Singapore, Togo, the United Kingdom, and the US.

We assessed the ambition of each program’s design – its scope, scale, and specificity – and the effectiveness of delivery, measured by the speed and coverage of disbursements. The research, which built on our earlier work on digital identification and digital financial inclusion, considered both country- and program-level financial infrastructure.

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