Raja Rafi, MPA ‘18: Mitigating the Economic Effects of COVID-19 in Emerging Markets of the Global South

Portrait of Raja Rafi

Raja Rafi graduated from CIPA in 2019 with a concentration in Economic & Financial Policy. He is employed as a Research Fellow at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) in Islamabad, Pakistan. He and his colleagues are researching and devising strategies for economies in the Global South to recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Here’s what he had to say about responding to the Pandemic— and how his Cornell MPA helped him react to the ever-changing policy landscape recently.

How are you and your colleagues addressing the Pandemic right now?

My colleagues and I at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) are coming up with innovative solutions to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns especially in the emerging markets of the Global South. PIDE, a think-tank that has a rich history of economic development research across the Global South with current & former advisors including the likes of development economist Mahbub ul Haq, Cornell faculty member and Former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, and Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell, has taken the lead in identifying novel ways at managing the economics of this pandemic in countries that are underdeveloped and have large sections of vulnerable poor populations.

The pandemic and the resultant lock-downs across the world have left policymakers with a dilemma: where locking down countries to maintain social distancing is important to thwart the pandemic, yet this has immeasurable effects on economies of countries that go into lock-down. Such lock-downs pose a more pronounced risk to inhabitants of highly populated yet economically poor countries like that of South Asia: Pakistan, India, Brazil and Bangladesh among others across the Global South.

We are producing evidence-based policy solutions on two basic fronts. First, we have identified numbers of most vulnerable groups such as daily-waged workers and formulated mechanisms to provide them immediate monetary relief in countries where financial inclusion of the population is very low. Secondly, our economists are devising strategies that countries in the Global South can use to kick-start their economies following the pandemic. Particular research themes here include expansionary monetary policies and targeted fiscal measures to spur demand and restore supply value-chains.

How did your CIPA MPA help you react to the ever-changing landscape over the last few months?


On the whole, my time at CIPA immensely added to my intellectual growth. Particularly speaking, it instilled in me a commitment to public service and the realization that how through collaborative efforts issues of imminent global concern can be addressed. The current pandemic has brought the nature of most collective problems bare for all of us to see and observe. The courses on international policy and management were eye-openers and the recent pandemic has made the content of those class discussions ever more relevant. 

What are some policy changes you hope will come out of this Pandemic?

The global novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed yet another failing of the international world order. Although, we have international agencies like WHO, what has become clear is that we don't possess the coordination, resources and sophistication that is required to tackle the spread of infectious diseases. This fundamentally, as is in the case of climate change, is a domain where normal market-based mechanisms have failed. Having said that, perhaps given the immense cost to the global economy that the current pandemic has caused, this will press governments, corporations and international diplomats alike to spend time and money on prevention and early-control measures on both regional and collective global levels.

Share Your CIPA Alumni In Action Story

Help us share your experience responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic by submitting a CIPA alumni note. We hope to highlight you and your organization's response to the Pandemic in our Alumni in Action series.  Please contact Sarah Louise Schupp, Assistant Director of External Relations, to share your story. We sincerely appreciate your hard work and dedication to improving the lives of others during this unprecedented time.