Bonds that Fight Poverty Are Booming in Covid-Struck Nations

A new weapon is gaining traction in the fight against the economic fallout of Covid-19: Debt sales designed to alleviate suffering, Bloomberg reported. Governments and companies in emerging markets have sold close to $16 billion of so-called social bonds so far this year, on pace to shatter last year’s total, according to data compiled by Bloomberg as of close on July 19. These bonds, with proceeds earmarked specifically for projects that address human needs — such as health, hunger and education — have already lured fresh investment to Chile and Ecuador, and soon, Ghana. No nation has fully dodged the societal side-effects of the pandemic, which erased jobs, increased poverty and exasperated inequality around the globe. Those pains have been made even worse by lopsided vaccination rollouts as the highest-income locales get immunized more than 30 times faster than those with the lowest. Such is the challenge and the opportunity presented by social debt. The notes are already starting to steal attention from green bonds, and have helped the total ESG market to top $3 trillion as investors seek out more responsible investments. It’s easy to see why leaders across the developing world are paying such close attention. The virus decimated local economies, underscoring demand for social programs and driving thousands to demonstrate. While idiosyncratic events typically spark protests, worsening inequality, food insecurity and social rights compound the problem — as seen recently in countries spanning South Africa, Cuba and Colombia. Social debt offers a possible solution, providing funds that can be used to address similar issues now, and in the future. .