Inflation, Epidemic and War in Ukraine

Ukraine is under three deadly attacks of “inflation, epidemic and war”, the Ukrainians have lost their economic, health and safety protection. They urgently need international help, but they have not received any meaningful supports so far. Ukrainians are struggling to save themselves, may Gold bless Ukrainians!

It reminds me of Jared Diamond’s (1999) award-winning book titled Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, it tells us how germs and wars destroyed civilizations.

Inflation could hit 60%

Ukraine’s per capita GDP was only $3,726.93 in 2020. The economy has been in poor shape, while inflation has remained high. Inflation declined a bit in the early stage of the epidemic outbreak, but quickly it returned to double-digit levels (Figure 1). As Ukraine is known as the “Europe Bread Basket”, which supplies European barley, wheat, rye and corn, while Russia is rich in natural gas. The outbreak of war is bound to worsen inflation in Ukraine and the world, especially in fuel and food prices. (Partington, 2022).

Figure 1 Inflation rate in Ukraine, 2017–2022. Source: Trading Economics

According to Ukraine’s experience in the 2014 incidents, the inflation rate soared to more than 60% in that year, it did not fall back until 2016, and it remained above 10% (Figure 2). In 2014–2016, there was a severe recession in Ukraine, the lowest annual growth rate of GDP reached -15%, and then the economy returned to positive growth, but it continued to be below 5%.

The outbreak of the pandemic pushed Ukraine into recession again (-10%), but it had been recovering before the outbreak of the war. Although the growth rate was still lower than the inflation rate (Figure 3), it had been improving gradually. But the ruthless military attack since February 24, 2022 will inevitably drag Ukraine’s economy into a serious recession again.

Figure 2 Inflation rate in Ukraine, 2013–2022. Source: Trading Economics
Figure 3 Annual economic growth rate of Ukraine, 2012–2022. Source: Trading Economics

The fourth wave of the epidemic

Since the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Ukraine has also been affected. There have been four waves of the epidemic so far, and the peak numbers of confirmed cases has been increasing, the situation is alarming. (Figure 4). The recent daily death toll is almost 250! (7-day moving average, Figure 5).

Figure 4 Daily new COVID-19 cases in Ukraine, March 8, 2020 to February 24, 2022. Source: Our World in Data
Figure 5 Daily new COVID deaths in Ukraine, March 13, 2020 to February 24, 2022. Source: Our World in Data

However, the epidemic situation in Ukraine has gradually improved, including a falling number of confirmed cases, and a lower rate of deaths than the third wave. Just like many European countries, the situation of the epidemic is gradually improving. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the war will likely worsen the epidemic again.

Since the rate of spread of the epidemic in Russia is 70% higher than that in Ukraine, the daily new confirmed rate of the epidemic in Ukraine is only about 600 cases per million people, but there are more than 1,000 cases in Russia (Figure 6).

Figure 6 Daily new cases of COVID per million people in Ukraine and Russia (7-day moving average), March 1, 2020 to February 24, 2022. Source: Our World in Data

When Russia soldiers enter Ukraine, they do not only cause direct casualties by arm forces, they can also exacerbate the spread rate of the virus and bring larger-scale epidemic infections in Ukraine. In addition, the vaccination ratio in Ukraine is only 35%, which is lower than 50% in Russia (Figure 7). The war would also suspend the prevention measures on the epidemic, it can have disastrous consequences as described in the history book “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Destiny of Human Society”.

Figure 6 The proportion of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Ukraine and Russia, March 2, 2020 to February 23, 2022. Source: Our World in Data

The war has resulted in numerous civilian casualties and homelessness

On February 24, 2022, the first day of the invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that 137 Ukrainian civilians and soldiers had been killed. As the battles are continuing, the Russian army advanced from multiple routes and was reported that it had reached the capital Kiev (Kyiv) on February 25. So far, more than 20 places are reported to be attacked (Figure 7). The number of casualties on the second day would likely be rising.

Figure 7 locations under attack. Source: Aljazeera (2022)

God Bless Ukrainians

Ukraine has been hurt by inflation, plague and war one after another. After experiencing the economic recession and hyperinflation from 2014 to 2016, everything was stabilizing and the economy was returning back to the upward trajectory, but then the outbreak of the COVID epidemic has claimed more than 110,000 lives in Ukraine.

People who have survived the epidemic had found that the situation was getting better, the mortality rate had been declining and economic growth had slowly picked up. However, it turned out to be a bolt from the blue. The outbreak of the war has been causing casualties, will likely cause serious economic recession, super inflation, and intensified epidemic spread.

Unfortunately, the international community and the United Nations have yet taken any meaningful actions. It is unimaginable that in the 21st century, human civilization has returned to the jungle world that encourages military invasions and predators-kill-all principle. What a shame!

References:

Aljazeera (2022) Ukraine death toll: What we know so tfar, Aljazeera, February 25. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/24/russia-ukraine-invasion-casualties-death-toll

Diamond, J. (Diamond, 1999) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, W. W. Norton & Company.

Partington, R. (2022) How the war in Ukraine will fuel a sharp hike in inflation, The Guardians, February 25. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/feb/25/ukraine-russia-inflation- economy-oil-gas

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